African American Alzheimer’s caregivers push to get vaccine for loved ones

Research shows risk extraordinarily high

Ella Evans, left, with her daughter and caregiver Cynthia Moon.

Ella Evans, left, with her daughter and caregiver Cynthia Moon.

DAYTON — For more than a year, Cynthia Moon has had hospice care come into her mom’s home.

Ella Evans has congestive heart failure, diabetes, high blood pressure, she’s had a stroke — and she has dementia.

When the pandemic hit, Moon said she called the agencies to ensure all the aides were COVID trained and tested.

“My mom is so frail, she cannot get sick. The smallest cold could put her in the hospital,” Moon said.

Moon wanted her mom to get the COVID vaccine. But her mother’s doctor did not recommend it. She said the doctor told her there hasn’t been many studies conducted with all the issues her mom has.

“I don’t want my mom to get COVID, nor do I want her to get the vaccine and it could be bad for her. I just stay prayed up. God’s going to protect her,” Moon said.

Then Moon decided to follow her heart. She and her son transported Evans, who is bedbound, to St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church to get her first vaccine dose. She’s weighing whether to go forward with the second dose because of the side effects she has heard people talk about after receiving the second dose.

New research shows that African Americans with dementia are at a significantly increased risk of contracting COVID. A study published Feb. 9 by Case Western Reserve University in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association found that the odds of contracting COVID-19 were twice as high for patients with dementia compared to those without dementia. African Americans with dementia had close to three times the risk of being infected with COVID-19 as white individuals with dementia.

Researchers used electronic health record data from 61.9 million American adults. While this is the first paper focused on the COVID risk faced by those with dementia, the published paper said the study highlights the need to protect individuals with dementia, especially those who are African American, as part of the strategy to control the pandemic.

In Ohio, dementia is not a current qualifying condition for priority vaccination. But individuals 65 and older, which comprises most people with Alzheimer’s, can be vaccinated now.

“We know how dementia disproportionately impacts African Americans and Hispanics. Now you add the risks and outcomes of COVID-19 and it is devastating. This pandemic continues to highlight the inequities in health outcomes,” Eric VanVlymen, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association Miami Valley Chapter, said.

This month, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine asked local health departments to prioritize underserved and minority populations when distributing the COVID vaccine. Dan Suffoletto, Public Information Supervisor for Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County, said 20% of Public Health’s doses are allotted for outreach in the African American community because of reasons like traditional vaccine hesitancy and racism in health care.

“We’re trying to make sure those who have been disenfranchised have the same opportunity as others,” Suffoletto said.

Ella Evans, left, with her daughter and caregiver Cynthia Moon. Evans, left, with her daughter and caregiver Cynthia Moon.
Research shows risk extraordinarily high