People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are more likely to die from COVID-19 than those without IDD, according to a study which may lead to better protection of this vulnerable section of the population.
Researchers from Syracuse University and SUNY Upstate Medical University in the US, said the correlation is likely due to a higher prevalence of co-morbid diseases among those with IDD.
They said it could also be due to a higher percentage of people with IDD living in congregated residential settings.
Their study, published in the Disability and Health Journal, included 30,282 people who were identified as COVID-19 positive.
"More attention is needed to this vulnerable health population in order to ensure their safety and well-being during this pandemic," said study co-author Scott Landes, an associate professor of sociology at Syracuse University.
Landes said careful attention should given to assess the impact of PPE prioritisation and funding streams on the ability of residential service providers to guarantee quality care to those with IDD during this time.
According to the researchers, every individual in the study had COVID-19, and based on the number of deaths recorded, they offered an idea of the severity of the disease among age groups.
They said in ages 0-17, for every 100 individuals with COVID-19, 1.6 with IDD died, and less than one without IDD died.
And among ages 18-74, for every 100 individuals with COVID-19, 4.5 with IDD died compared to 2.7 without IDD.
The rates were similar for those who were 75 and over, the scientists said, adding that for every 100 individuals with COVID-19, 21.1 with IDD died, and 20.7 without IDD died.
"Based upon the case fatality rates we report among those ages 18-74, if 1,00,000 individuals with IDD contract COVID-19, we would expect 4,500 to die," Landes said.
In comparison, among 1,00,000 individuals without IDD, the researchers estimated that 2,700 to die.
Based on the analysis, the scientists said this would be an excess of 1,800 deaths among those with IDD.
Individuals with IDD also had a higher prevalence of comorbid circulatory, respiratory, and endocrine diseases across all age groups, the researchers noted in the study.
They cautioned, however, that the study did not test causality in the data.
The scientists speculated that some of the difference may be due to the higher percentage of individuals with IDD who reside in congregated settings — a characteristic that could not be accounted for in the current study.