COVID-19 vaccine updates have taken over news headlines and morning reports. What we know today is that distribution of vaccines is rolling out in priority tiers, focusing first on front-line health care workers and long-term care residents. [Read more vaccine updates here. And for the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, be sure to check in with your local health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).]
Studies have shown that people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) who contract COVID-19 experience new or worsening motor and non-motor symptoms. And those who are older and have advancing disease (with significantly decreased movement or swallowing problems, for example) are at higher risk for more severe infection.
Because of this, The Michael J. Fox Foundation’s public policy team is working urgently to advocate for several initiatives designed to support COVID-19 vaccine availability for people with PD and to increase research into the connection between COVID-19 and neurological disease.
Urging Priority Vaccination for People with Parkinson’s
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is a CDC committee comprised of medical and public health experts who develop recommendations on the use of vaccines in the civilian population of the United States. In December 2020, the Foundation submitted comments urging ACIP to include PD on the list of medical conditions for COVID-19 vaccine priority due to underlying health conditions, comorbidities, and progress of the disease.
ACIP’s initial recommendations are to prioritize health care workers and long-term care residents for the vaccine. These recommendations are mandatory nationwide. As a next step, each state will now decide the next tiers of vaccine prioritization. Your advocacy today can influence the prioritization list. Contact your governor and ask them to prioritize people with Parkinson’s.
Promoting Inclusion and Dialogue around COVID-19 Vaccines
Evidence continues to mount about the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on communities of color, especially people living with chronic disease. The Foundation was an early member of the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project which works collectively to share resources and educate diverse stakeholders about the process and the science related to vaccines, as well as to ensure every community receives high-quality, accessible, and relatable education about COVID-19 vaccines.
Galvanizing Organizations to Support Research into Neurological Effects of COVID-19
Monitoring and analyzing data around the connection between COVID-19 and neurological conditions, such as PD, is critical. Our public policy team spearheaded a letter to Dr. Robert Redfield (CDC Director), Dr. Francis Collins (Director of the National Institutes of Health), and the Co-Chairs of President-elect Biden’s Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board to ensure their teams are prioritizing data gathering and analysis about COVID-19's effects on the human brain.
To date, nearly 40 organizations have signed on to this letter, further strengthening its impact. Reaching out to these senior officials is important because more research is needed to understand the potential impact and longer-term health consequences of COVID-19.
Stay tuned to our channels and to this blog as we put vaccine news in context for our community.