Jacksonville father tries to prioritize folks with Down syndrome for COVID vaccine

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Sydney Leach is a 19-year-old Mandarin High School athlete living with Down syndrome.

Her father Jeffery says it is crucial that she get the COVID-19 vaccine. He is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Jacksonville Down Syndrome Association.

“Not a day goes by that we are not a little nervous,” said Jeffery Leach. “This vaccine is extremely important to us.”

In particular, researchers in the UK have estimated that adults with Down syndrome are almost five times the risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 and that they are ten times the risk of dying from the virus. That is compared to the general population.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults with Down syndrome are at increased risk of serious illness due to COVID-19.


However, in Florida, people with Down syndrome are not considered to be at high risk for serious illness from the virus (full list of Florida high-risk populations below). Currently, the vaccine is only available to healthcare workers, those 65 years of age and older, and those in long-term care facilities.

“We’re not a big community and we understand that. But we are just as important as any other individual or family member. And it is vital that our community has this option to get the vaccine, ”said Jeffery Leach.

To get the state’s attention, he said members of the Down syndrome community launched a campaign called #AShotAtTheShot.

“We ask the community, those with Down syndrome, those without, to call state lawmakers to call their governor and request that Down syndrome be placed on that priority list so that our community can have the option to get this vaccine sooner than to get later, ”said Jeffrey Leach. (Click the link above for more information.)


He says his daughter is a blessing and that receiving the vaccine is key for her to continue exercising and leading a happy and healthy life.

There are approximately 1,500 people in Jacksonville who are diagnosed with Down syndrome, according to Jeffery Leach.

The following populations in the state are considered to be at high risk for serious illness from COVID-19, according to floridahealth.gov:

  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility.

  • Other high risk conditions can include:
    – People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma.
    – People with severe heart disease.
    – People with weakened immune systems, including cancer treatment.
    – People of all ages with severe obesity (Body Mass Index) [BMI] > 40) or certain underlying medical conditions, especially if these are not well controlled, such as:
    Diabetes, kidney failure, or liver disease can also be at risk.
  • Pregnant women should be monitored as they are known to be at risk of developing serious viral diseases. However, previous data on COVID-19 have not shown an increased risk.

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