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COVID vaccine will 'give him his life back,' says family of son with Down Syndrome

The developmentally- and intellectually-disabled community is now able to get the vaccine in Georgia.

CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. — On day two of the state’s expanded eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine, a Cherokee County family is finally getting the protection they’ve been fighting for.

The Meredith family has been a ball of nerves for a year, waiting to get their vaccinations. Andy, 21, has Down syndrome, which increases his risk of COVID mortality nearly 10 times. 

Tuesday became the first step toward regaining some kind of normalcy. That's when dad, Justin, and son, Andy, got their first shot. Mom, Stephanie, already got hers.

"I think it opens up a whole host of opportunities that were taken away from Andy during the initial shut down, particularly the ability to associate with his friends, the ability to go to work and volunteer," Justin Meredith told 11Alive.

During the pandemic, Andy had his work hours cut to only off-peak hours in order to keep him protected from possible COVID exposure, and he hasn’t been able to see his friends. 

"I think this is going to give him his life back," Stephanie Meredith said. "I’m so happy about that."

Stephanie was part of a group of parents of developmentally- and intellectually-disabled individuals who pushed Gov. Kemp to make the community part of the recent vaccine expansion group.

"Just to have that weight of relief when you’ve had to be so scared about, you know, the high death rate for our community. It’s hard to even describe it other than the word freedom," Stephanie said.

Adult Disability Medical Healthcare administered the Moderna vaccine to Andy and his dad. It is the only adult disability clinic in the state. The clinic received 30 doses for its first rollout day, but expects to get more as demand and the ability to administer the vaccine grows. 

"The anxiety level is amazing, and we are so grateful that the governor and the state of Georgia is recognizing that," said Janice Nodvin, executive director of Adult Disability Medical Healthcare.

After a few minutes and a quick pinch, Andy got his first shot. He said it didn't hurt, and even if it did, it's all worth it. 

"It was really, really good," Andy said. "I can hang out with my friend Mitch, or (go) back to work."

Andy and his dad will go back in three to four weeks for their second vaccine shot. The healthcare clinic will also offer drive thru vaccine shots on March 20 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.