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Down syndrome community grateful for access to COVID-19 vaccine

As part of Ohio’s Phase 1B vaccine plan, those with developmental disabilities are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine this week.

Makyah Dexter is ready for the big day.

Friday morning, he is set to receive his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The high school senior has Down syndrome and communicates with the help of an iPad.

“I am happy about being able to get the vaccine so it could help me not get the virus, and I can continue to be healthy,” he said.

Makyah and his mother, Michelle, have been making sure to stay as safe as possible during the pandemic, but that means not being able to be as social as they might like.

“Due to the virus, I attend both school and church virtually,” Makyah said. “I also walk a mile each day, and, when the weather’s nice, I shoot hoops in my backyard.”

Makyah isn’t the only one who is ready to get back a sense of normalcy.

Stephanie Leppert is ready to get back to work. She is an outreach and advocacy associate for the Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio.

And she already got the vaccine.

“I am glad that I got the vaccine,” she said. “I want to be able to go back to work and see my friends and my family and to be able to do Special Olympics.”

And her boss, Kari Jones, is ready to welcome her back to the office. Jones is the president and CEO of DSACO.

Her organization and others pushed for the state to put those with developmental disabilities high on the priority list.

She pointed to data from the Annals of Internal Medicine. A study shows those with Down syndrome who contract COVID-19 are four times more likely to be hospitalized and ten times more likely to die.

“We were thrilled when, in late December, Gov. DeWine announced that people with Down syndrome would be included in Group 1B and, to our knowledge, he was really the first person, we were the first state in the country to prioritize people with Down syndrome, which is, talk about Ohio pride,” Jones said. “We were pretty stoked.”

Jones says many of the folks connected to DSACO have vaccine appointments Friday and Saturday. Michelle Dexter will be accompanying her son.

“We hope others will (get it, too) as it will help provide immunity for our community as well, not only for him but the more of us that get the vaccine, the sooner we’re back to normalcy,” she said.

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