COVID-19 vaccine offers protection for Ohioans with Down syndrome

Updated: Mar. 2, 2021 at 4:22 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - About 1.7 million people have gotten at least their first Covid-19 vaccine dose here in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Priority groups continue to get vaccinated, and Governor Mike DeWine announced the next phase of priority groups on Monday.

Adult Ohioans with Down syndrome have been on the Covid-19 vaccine priority list for a few weeks.

19 News spoke to one family about how important the vaccine is to them.

28-year-old Monica Jakubisin has Down syndrome and is also an essential worker.

She works in the kitchen at Fairview Hospital in Cleveland.

Now, when she comes home, she takes extra safety precautions due to coronavirus.

“I take a shower, put my clothes straight in the wash,” she said.

According to the CDC, Down syndrome puts her at high risk of severe complications from Covid-19.

“Monica was born with a heart defect and had to have open heart surgery, so that puts her in one of those classifications as well,” her mom said.

She said they did their research and as soon as Monica was eligible, they signed up for the vaccine.

“We did sign up right away to have her get the vaccine through the county,” Mary Ellen Jakubisin said.

“I did my first shot this week and I then I get my second shot,” Monica Jakubisin said.

Monica’s job gives her a routine, but the pandemic upended all of her other activities-- at least at first.

Now, everything is virtual.

Monica takes several classes through GiGi’s Playhouse Cleveland, an achievement center for people with Down syndrome and their families.

They serve more than 400 families in northeast Ohio and with the help of about 60 volunteers a month.

They launched virtual programming about a week after they had to close their doors last march.

“I think Monica’s been amazing with figuring out how to sign on to things, and use both her phone and computer to participate,” her mom said.

It’s been hard for Monica to miss out on social time in person, but they hope the vaccine is the first step to starting that up again.

Mary Makulinski teaches a virtual music class for GiGi's Playhouse Cleveland.
Mary Makulinski teaches a virtual music class for GiGi's Playhouse Cleveland.(GiGi's Playhouse Cleveland)

19 News found caregivers of people with Down syndrome in Ohio like parents and volunteers are not eligible yet to get the vaccine.

But we spoke with one volunteer who got the vaccine through her workplace.

Mary Makulinski is a volunteer at GiGi’s Playhouse. She helps with literacy tutoring.

When the pandemic hit, they shifted everything they could online.

Mary says a little bit of normalcy and routine helps.

She also works at a nursing home and that’s why she was able to get the covid-19 vaccine, which has allowed her to go back to in-person volunteering.

“I felt a little safer working one on one in-person. Of course there’s still protocols that we do follow, we get our temperature checked, we have to answer screening questions. And depending on the family’s level of comfort we have plastic barriers, we have gloves, of course masks have to be worn, the whole time,” she said.

We reached out to the Ohio Department of Health to see when caregivers for people with Down syndrome will be eligible for the vaccine.

Here’s their response:

“Vaccine continues to be scarce in Ohio and across the country, and quite simply, there isn’t enough vaccine to go around.While there are many groups who have important reasons they should be prioritized, Ohio has concentrated its early vaccination phases on our most vulnerable, as Ohioans age 65 and older make up 87% of the COVID-19 deaths in the state.”

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