COVID-19 Vaccine Should Be a Priority for Alzheimer’s Patients and Caregivers

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by Ray Burow |

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The first COVID-19 vaccine was kicked off in the U.S. in mid-December, following an arduous developmental journey. The Wall Street Journal referred to the first rollout of COVID-19 immunizations as “the most urgent mass immunization campaign” since polio.

Astonishing feat

The sheer strength of effort by medical science to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine to the public is astonishing. Medical science really did come through in lightning speed.

Under normal circumstances, vaccine development can take several years, even a decade or more. The development of the COVID-19 vaccine is historical. No previous vaccine has come close in terms of rapid development. The mumps vaccine ran a distant second, requiring four years to become publicly available.

Naysayers predicted it would be impossible to present a vaccine before spring, or even summer, but pharmaceutical companies and scientists have proven them wrong.

Yet while the public seems surprised at the speed at which the vaccine has been developed, we should be less impressed with the degree to which it has been distributed up to this point.

First in line

Vaccinating an entire nation is a huge undertaking. In the United States, nearly 50 million people are 65 or older, more than 15% of the population. This number signifies the most vulnerable of our citizens.

It also represents caregivers, as 34% of caregivers fall within this age category, as do those whom they are caring for.

The aging population is first in line to receive the vaccine, and rightfully so. However, caregivers face the dilemma of not only locating available vaccines, but also the physical challenge of getting themselves and their loved one with Alzheimer’s to the vaccination location.

Then, when by hook or crook they make it happen, the lines are long and their patient’s patience grows thin. Conversation becomes peppered with an ongoing circular set of questions, such as: “Why are we here?” “What are we doing here?” “What’s taking so long?” “What are we waiting on?” Cue the loop.

Caregivers have their own arduous journey

Yes, as arduous as the journey was to bring us the vaccine, the trip from our front door to the vaccination center and back again can seem equally arduous. Do it anyway.

Enlist a helper if you must, but please don’t skip receiving the vaccine and arranging it for your loved one. Such a decision could prove deadly. Also, once you’ve been vaccinated, remember that a second dose is required for its full effect and benefit. You will have to go through the process of getting both of you back to the vaccination location.

Additionally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the vaccine be administered even if you previously had the virus.

From our experience, most primary care physicians do not have the vaccine available in their offices, which is unfortunate for those with dementia and their caregivers. It would be easier to have a specific appointment to be vaccinated.

However, your loved one’s primary healthcare provider should have information about where the vaccine is available and how to be placed on a waiting list. You may also contact your local or county health department for information.

Don’t give up

It’s easy to become discouraged with the process of receiving the vaccine, but don’t despair or give up. Those in charge of vaccine rollout in your community are in uncharted territory. Continue to ask questions until you receive correct answers.

While waiting to receive the vaccination, continue to take the same precautions you’ve followed for the last year. Limit your loved one’s exposure to people outside your home. Wear your mask when you’re out and about, and keep washing your hands.

One more thing: For those of us who are able-bodied, of age, and able to receive the vaccine, do it for those who can’t. Though we strongly encourage caregivers and their loved ones to be vaccinated for COVID-19, it may be an impossible feat for some.

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Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.

Comments

John Price avatar

John Price

I live in Indiana and you co-morbidities including dementia Alzheimer’s don’t matter as the shots are only given by ages and random signups after your age is arrived at.i have early dementia Alzheimer’s. I’m 61 1/2. It will be a long time. I also have 8 other co-morbidities.

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Ray Burow avatar

Ray Burow

Mr. Price,

I am so very sorry to hear about your difficulty in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, especially given your co-morbidities. I hope that you're in a position where you can "hunker down" until such time as you can receive the shot. One very good thing in your favor, is your age. Sixty-one years of age falls below the most-at-risk demographic. However, this is not to diminish your concern, given the co-morbidities, but even a tiny sliver of a silver lining might help to encourage you.

Regarding your dementia/Alzheimer's diagnosis. I am sorry for this as well, but hopefully you're looking after yourself, and have included trusted friends and family members into your situation, who will be there for you. Hoping that you've also secured a good doctor/neurologist and they have you on a vitamin/medication regimen to help address the progression of the disease, so that you are able to live your life to your fullest ability.

Thank you for being a vital member of the Alzheimer's News Today community. I wish you well and God's speed in your journey.

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