Deciding to Get the COVID Vaccine with Parkinson's

When my dad signed himself up to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, a flood of relief washed over me. Both of my parents are in their 60s, and I limited my time at home during the thick of the pandemic for fear that I might bring the virus with me.

Since seniors are already in a higher risk bracket for developing potentially lethal illnesses like pneumonia or the flu, I knew that an aggressive virus like COVID-19 would only add to the chaos.

I worry about my parents

Although my parents are both strong and they make a focused effort to provide themselves with a healthy environment, I still worry. They’re both at risk. Dad especially worries me because he has Parkinson’s disease (PD). But it isn’t just Parkinson’s that raises my cortisol levels.

His breathing has changed in the past year, presumably due to a loss of access to his regular gym routine.

Up until 2020, my Dad was an active athlete at Rock Steady Boxing, where the coaches helped him and other people with Parkinson’s stay nimble, and combat muscle loss.

What is the risk?

As numbers in Michigan remain high, I can’t help but wonder how risky contracting the virus would be for my parents.

According to the CDC, older adults have a higher risk of a severe contraction, which could potentially cause hospitalization, intensive care, ventilation, and even death.1

As we age, it appears that the virus is even more lethal. In the age 50 to 64 bracket, where my mom sits, the outlook isn’t great but it isn’t horrible. And as for my dad, he’s in the next bracket, which makes him more than twice as likely as my mom to face death should he contract COVID-19. But it's more than his age that concerns me.2

What do they experts say?

According to experts, having Parkinson’s doesn’t make you more susceptible to contracting COVID-19. However, the recovery process for those with PD and COVID-19 is extensive.3

According to one study, catching COVID-19 also increases the death rate for Parkinson’s patients. Compared to a control group, those with Parkinson's Disease were 15 percent more likely to face death than those without.4

One study also shows that 20 percent of Parkinson’s patients experienced worsened symptoms since the pandemic began; 12 percent of people increased their medications, and anxiety levels substantially heightened.4

Will the vaccine help?

In January of this year, Dr. Michael S. Okun stated: "If you have Parkinson’s, you should get the COVID-19 vaccine." Since people with Parkinson’s are at a much higher risk of dealing with severe COVID-19 impacts, the vaccine can help to reduce or entirely eliminate the risk for a while.5

However, experts suggest that there’s still a chance that it won't be effective, which means that it’s important to continue to stay socially distant.

My Dad reported very few symptoms from the vaccine, saying that his arm was a bit sore and he may have run a fever after one of the doses. But his routine was largely uninterrupted, and he’s grateful to keep the virus at an arm’s length.

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