COVID-19 and Parkinson’s

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Parkinson Canada is dedicated to the health and wellbeing of all people living with Parkinson’s. We continue to closely monitor information on the COVID-19 pandemic provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada and other public health authorities.

What we know today is that the distribution of vaccines is rolling out across Canada in a phased approach that prioritizes access to the vaccine to certain populations. There are many reasons why a person living with Parkinson’s may have earlier access to the vaccine, but the diagnosis of Parkinson’s or any other health condition is not currently included in the rollout plan for priority access to the vaccine.

Since the priority groups were first announced, we have worked hard to understand the overall strategy for the vaccine and where Parkinson’s fits in to this roll out strategy. We continue to consult with movement disorder specialists and other providers as information evolves and we seek to put the health of Canadians with Parkinson’s first.

At this time, many of the people with Parkinson’s most at risk for severe illness will qualify for earlier access to the vaccine based on the existing criteria for Canada, which is:

  • Residents and staff of shared living settings that provide care for seniors.
  • Adults 70 years of age and older, beginning with adults 80 years of age and older, and then decreasing the age limit by 5-year increments to age 70 years as supply becomes available.
  • Health care workers who have direct contact with patients, including those who work in health care settings and personal support workers.
  • Adults in Indigenous communities.

As additional COVID-19 vaccines and supplies become available, the following populations should then be offered vaccinations:

  • Health care workers not included in the initial rollout
  • Residents and staff of all other shared living settings, such as homeless shelters, correctional facilities, and housing for migrant workers
  • Essential workers who face additional risks to maintain services for the functioning of society

This resource will provide you with more information on the vaccine roll out plan for Canada and has a tool to easily search for information specific to your province or territory: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/prevention-risks/covid-19-vaccine-treatment/vaccine-rollout.html

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 and Parkinson’s

There are currently two vaccines approved for COVID-19 available in Canada. There is no evidence to suggest that the COVID-19 vaccine is unsafe or ineffective for people with Parkinson’s.

While anyone can be exposed and become sick from COVID-19, there are individuals who may be more likely to be exposed to the disease due to the following:

  • Their jobs or occupations require them to be in contact with large numbers of people, which increases their chances of being exposed to someone who has COVID-19
  • They live in group settings where the COVID-19 virus may transmit more easily (for example, long-term care facilities, correctional facilities, shelters, or group residences)
  • They face barriers that limit their ability to access or implement effective public health measures (for example, individuals with disabilities who encounter non-accessible information, services and/or facilities)

For example, anyone who has:

  • difficulty reading, speaking, understanding or communicating
  • difficulty accessing medical care or health advice
  • difficulty doing preventive activities, like frequent hand washing and covering coughs and sneezes
  • ongoing specialized medical care or needs specific medical supplies
  • ongoing supervision needs or support for maintaining independence
  • difficulty accessing transportation
  • economic barriers
  • unstable employment or inflexible working conditions
  • social or geographic isolation, like in remote and isolated communities
  • insecure, inadequate, or nonexistent housing conditions

Parkinson Canada urges all Canadians to continue following public health guidelines to stay safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19. For more information, please visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/prevention-risks/measures-reduce-community.html#s

To-date there is limited information on COVID-19 and Parkinson’s; however, from the studies that have been published it is found that a person with Parkinson’s who contracts COVID-19 may experience worsening motor symptoms and non-motor symptoms, such as fatigue and autonomic issues, during the acute infection. If you are infected with COVID-19 and are experiencing a worsening in your Parkinson’s symptoms, please contact your physician to determine the best strategies for you to manage through the infection.

Anyone can get sick from COVID-19; however, the people at greatest risk of more serious illness or outcomes from COVID-19 are:

  • Older adults (increasing risk with each decade, especially over 60 years).
  • People of any age with chronic medical conditions including:
    • lung disease
    • heart disease
    • hypertension (high blood pressure)
    • diabetes
    • kidney disease
    • liver disease
    • dementia
    • stroke
  • People of any age who are immunocompromised, including those:
    • with an underlying medical condition (e.g., cancer)
    • taking medications that lower the immune system (e.g., chemotherapy)
  • People living with obesity (BMI of 40 or higher).

In one small study, it was found that in addition to age, advanced Parkinson’s disease also contributed to more severe illness.

For more information on conditions that that have a greater risk of more severe illness from COVID-19, please visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/people-high-risk-for-severe-illness-covid-19.html

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