People with autism aged 16 and younger and 40 to 60 have higher odds of being infected with COVID-19 than their neurotypical peers do, according to new studies. Researchers analyzed data from 16,406 people with autism in Israel’s largest healthcare organization. The team matched participants with a neurotypical person of the same age and gender.
The results show people with autism aged 16 and younger were 1.3X more likely to be infected with COVID-19. Participants with autism in the 40 to 60 age range had double the odds, the study noted. All results from this study appeared in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders in July 2021.
“These findings suggest that people with autism or other neurodevelopmental disorders should be prioritized for vaccines,” said the lead medical researcher. “There is awareness towards the increased risk of morbidity among people with neurodevelopmental disorders, but I can’t really connect the link and say, ‘OK, they’ve taken our findings and turned it into a policy.’”
Research has just begun, which is why it’s uncertain why certain people with autism have elevated odds of contracting COVID-19. Researchers noted the differences seen in participants aged 40 to 60 could be associated with familial interactions, but there isn’t enough evidence yet.
ASD & COVID-19 Research Studies in the US
The number of autism-specific Medicaid waivers went up nearly 500% from 2004 to 2015, according to a new study. Many states use Medicaid waivers to provide services to people who may not be covered for ASD Services under Medicaid.
US researchers compiled a list of 269 different Medicaid programs focused on providing services to people with autism or intellectual disability. During this 11-year study, 26 states changed their Medicaid waivers to increase care options for people with autism. Nine states added a type of waiver called (waiver 1915C) specifically for people with autism, far outpacing new waivers for other types of intellectual disability.
“There’s a big difference in how states use Medicaid to meet the needs of people with autism throughout their life,” says Lindsay Shea, associate professor and director of the Policy and Analytics Center at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
ASD State Benefits
Three states researched in the study— Arizona, Rhode Island, and Vermont — do not offer any 1915C waivers, which was the main type of Medicaid program assessed in the study, thus they were not included in the study data. Arizona, Rhode Island, and Vermont use a different waiver, called a 1115, to provide long-term patient care.
Researchers also used data from autism prevalence studies to estimate the percentage of people with autism in each state who could potentially be served using 1915C waivers. The study estimated that Wisconsin could serve more than 20 percent of people with autism or intellectual disability through Waiver 1915C, while Minnesota could serve about 14 percent. For most states, the figure was far lower. The average state could serve an average of 4 percent of intellectually disabled residents or people with autism through Medicaid waivers.
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Spectrumnews.org, Community Letter
Health Services Research, July 2021