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COVID Can Threaten Sickle Cell Patients, But Too Few Are Vaccinated
  • Posted January 12, 2024

COVID Can Threaten Sickle Cell Patients, But Too Few Are Vaccinated

Sickle cell disease is one of many chronic health conditions that dramatically increases the risk of hospitalization and death in people infected by COVID-19.

Unfortunately, folks with sickle cell disease are much less likely to have received the best protection available to them -- a COVID vaccine.

Completion of the initial two-dose COVID vaccination series is nearly two times lower for adults with sickle cell disease compared to others their age, according to a report published Jan. 8 in the journal JAMA Network Open.

The rates are even lower than that for children younger than 18, researchers say.

For the study, the team analyzed Michigan state data from sickle cell and immunization registries. In all, they had records for more than 3,400 people ages 5 and older with sickle cell disease to compare against data on 9.4 million other state residents over age 5.

About 61% of Michigan residents without sickle cell disease had completed at least the primary series of COVID vaccine by August 2022, researchers found.

But only 34% of those with sickle cell disease had gotten themselves fully vaccinated, results show.

The highest-risk group, those over 65, had the highest vaccination rates -- 74% for sickle cell patients compared to 87% for the general population.

However, there were only 110 people with sickle cell disease in that age range, partially due to the fact that the condition tends to cause people to die early, the researchers said.

Vaccination rates were even lower in children and teens with sickle cell disease, who have a higher rate of hospitalization and death if they are infected with COVID.

Only 17% of kids ages 5 to 11 and 31% of those ages 12 to 17 with sickle cell disease had gotten the primary series of COVID vaccine, compared with 25% and 41% of the general population in those age groups.

"It is essential to develop targeted interventions to increase COVID-19 vaccination among people with sickle cell disease," said researcher Sarah Reeves, an assistant professor of epidemiology and pediatrics with the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

"This population is chronically underserved in healthcare and society, emphasizing the importance of increasing the accessibility and acceptability of these vaccines," Reeves added in a university news release.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about high-risk groups for COVID.

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, Jan. 8, 2024

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