'We remain very concerned': American Diabetes Association advocates for access to COVID vaccine

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- New groups became eligible for the vaccine in Wisconsin starting March 1, but those with chronic health conditions are not among those currently eligible. 

"There really are a number of reasons why people with diabetes need to be prioritized. Probably the best statistic I could give you is if you look at all the deaths from COVID in the US, 40 percent of them are in people in diabetes," said Bob Gabbay, Chief Scientific and Medical Officer for the American Diabetes Association. 

He says those at the American Diabetes Association are concerned about access to the vaccine for those with diabetes. He says those with Type 1 and Type 1 should be prioritized equally. 

"We’ve been very active advocating both at the federal and the state level, including in the state of Wisconsin where we’ve worked with the governor’s staff to bring this kind of information to their attention to be able to act on this," Gabbay said. 

"There are people who have received a diagnosis very recently and they’re very, very healthy otherwise, they have no other conditions and their Parkinson's is very mild and for someone like that, there may not be any pressing reason above someone else their own age, but unfortunately as Parkinson's disease evolves, and progresses there are certain features of Parkinson's that make people more vulnerable to the complications of COVID," said Rebecca Gilbert, Chief Scientific Officer with the American Parkinson Disease Association. 

Wisconsin Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk says as the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee looked at a number of factors when deliberating who would be prioritized for the vaccine. 

"One was the risk of disease and really, the risk of death that certain population groups faced and that is certainly why people over age 65 were included in the recommendations," she said 

Van Dijk says 87% of the deaths from COVID in Wisconsin have been in people over age 65,

"That risk of mortality was very high in their deliberations, but then they also considered risk of exposure and what groups also posed risk of exposure and risk of spreading to other people," she said. 

She said people who are 64 and under with chronic conditions are another group at risk. 

"That is certainly a group that is under consideration for a subsequent phase and we’re not changing this phase at this point in time, but I do think vaccine supply will influence when we may be able to open up the next phase and hopefully with increased vaccine supply, we’ll be looking at that next phase, even sooner than we might have anticipated a few weeks ago."




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