In a new position statement, Alzheimer Europe has issued a call for prioritisation of people with dementia and their carers in national COVID-19 vaccination strategies, urging governments to recognise the disproportionate effect of the pandemic on these groups.
Alzheimer Europe has today issued a call for people with dementia and their carers to be given priority in the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination campaigns across Europe.
In its position statement, Alzheimer Europe notes that people with dementia have almost twice the risk for developing COVID-19 compared to their peers without dementia, with high rates of hospitalisation and a risk of mortality within six months of approximately 20% in certain populations. Those who become infected are also more prone to developing delirium, which can complicate the management of their current and future cognitive health.
Currently, countries vary significantly in their prioritisation of different groups for COVID-19 vaccination. The vast majority of European countries have prioritised frontline healthcare workers, long-term care facility residents and the oldest old in the first phases of vaccination, with a smaller number also prioritising social care personnel and professional carers. A small number of European countries, recognising dementia per se as a risk category for severe COVID-19, have prioritised people with dementia for COVID-19 vaccination. However, in the majority of countries, neither people with dementia, nor informal carers have been specifically identified as priority groups for the COVID-19 vaccination, despite their increased risk.
Alzheimer Europe notes the disproportionate impact of the pandemic already experienced by people with dementia and their carers, as a result of service cancellations, care home restrictions etc., and accordingly, makes the following three demands of European governments:
Include dementia as a risk category for severe COVID-19, prioritising people with dementia for the COVID-19 vaccine, independent of age, place of residence or other risk factors for severe COVID-19.
Prioritise informal carers for the COVID-19 vaccine, acknowledging their important contribution during the pandemic to the care, support and even survival of people with dementia, as well as the indirect protection vaccination can confer for the people for whom they care.
Ensure that reasonable accommodations are made and that support mechanisms are in place when organising and rolling out the vaccine to people with dementia, such as the possibility to be vaccinated at home and to have decision-making support, if required.
Commenting further, Alzheimer Europe’s Executive Director, Jean Georges, stated:
“People with dementia and their carers have often been overlooked and forgotten during this pandemic. Particularly during the early stages of the outbreak, public health measures designed to control the spread of the virus have had profound and often tragic consequences for people with dementia, their families and carers.
Governments must recognise that people with dementia, their families and carers have already been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and ensure that people with dementia and their carers will not be overlooked again in the development and implementation of vaccination strategies.
We urge governments across Europe to revise their approaches to vaccination campaigns and prioritise people with dementia and their carers, allowing a return to some semblance of normality for this vulnerable group.”