(WYTV) – New data shows that people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease are twice as likely to get COVID-19. The Alzheimer’s Association is now encouraging everyone to get the vaccine.
A sense of relief — that’s how Terri Littlejohn describes feeling after her 87-year-old mother Dorothy got two doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
“She had no problems, no reaction to any of that,” Littlejohn said.
Dorothy has had Alzheimer’s for over 20 years.
According to a study by Case Western, people with dementia are two times more likely to get COVID-19. That number is closer to three times for African Americans with dementia.
“That’s why we’re really encouraging people with dementia to get the vaccine,” said Rebecca Hall, program director for the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater East Ohio.
Littlejohn and her husband spent the last year limiting visitors and disinfecting but the couple still got COVID-19 in January. Luckily, they didn’t pass it on to Dorothy.
Littlejohn spent 11 days in the hospital. That’s when she made her mom’s first vaccine appointment.
“I had to do it. I just choose for her not to suffer like I did. It was really painful and traumatic because you’re alone, no one can see you, and I just wanted to protect her,” Littlejohn said.
But not all Ohioans with Alzheimer’s are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines right now.
The Alzheimer’s Association says approximately 200,000 people nationwide have early-onset Alzheimer’s. That means they’re under the age of 65 but still have difficulty with social distancing and other preventative measures like older people with Alzheimer’s.
“Not remembering like we would to wash hands after a gathering or, you know, just not understanding in the same way that a person without cognitive decline would. So, regardless of age, that’s going to be a factor,” Hall said.