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Risk of Severe Disease

Individuals with Down syndrome are at increased risk of dying from COVID-19, leading to calls for individuals with Down syndrome to be prioritized for vaccination, Science reports.

For instance, it notes that a recent Annals of Internal Medicine paper found by examining a UK database that people with Down syndrome are four times more likely to be hospitalized and 10 times more likely to die from COVID-19. Meanwhile, a preprint at MedRxiv from an international team of researchers likewise found individuals with Down syndrome had an increased risk of death from COVID-19, particularly for those over the age of 40.

Science adds that researchers suspect that this increased risk could in part be due to the presence of three copies of chromosome 21 among people with Down syndrome. The gene encoding TMPRSS2, which the virus relies on to enter cells, is found there and cells from people with Down syndrome express elevated levels of this enzyme, it adds. Other aspects of the syndrome, such as immune system abnormalities, could also contribute to risk, Science notes.

It adds that the UK's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has now recommended individuals with Down syndrome be prioritized to receive a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, though the US has not made such a recommendation.