A Michigan man with Down syndrome—whose futile quest to get the COVID-19 vaccine was chronicled by The Daily Beast—has died from complications related to the virus, his family said.
Vincent Welch, 35, died Friday morning at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he was recently airlifted for treatment by pulmonary specialists.
Welch lived in Snover, Michigan, which is near the top of the state’s geographical “thumb.” It’s also a key COVID hotspot nationally, as Michigan sees an alarming rise in cases. The state leads the nation in new cases, with more than 6,000 recorded just on Thursday and a seven-day positivity rate hitting 15 percent.
“That’s all he talked about is getting a shot,” Welch’s mother, Susan, told The Daily Beast last week.
But Welch wasn’t able to get vaccinated in time because, his mother said, vaccines were not fully available in their area yet.
And Welch contracted COVID even though he rarely left the house, preferring to stay inside and watch TV.
“He’d be the last person I’d ever expect it to happen to,” his brother, William Reilly, said. Reilly, who lives in Lawrence, Kansas, is set to get his second dose of the Moderna vaccine today, adding, “The irony feels real.”
A 2020 cohort study of 8 million adults found that those with Down syndrome who get COVID are four times more likely to be hospitalized and 10 times more likely to die from the virus than others. The findings, along with follow-up studies that confirmed the results, prompted Yale Medicine clinical geneticist Dr. Michele Spencer-Manzon to caution families to be especially careful around their relatives with Down.
Before Welch died, his family asked that the hospital play his favorite country music songs to stimulate his brain as he lay in bed, intubated. He had a tracheotomy a few days ago, which apparently didn’t help.
In a text message to The Daily Beast, Reilly said, “Thank you for letting the world know who he was and that he mattered.”