EDMONTON -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has declared people with Down syndrome to be high risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

“What we know is that people born with Down syndrome are four times more likely to be hospitalized and 10 times more likely to die of COVID," said Michelle Ponich. Her sister, Tanya, has Down syndrome.

“I’m afraid,” Tanya said. “I’d like to get vaccinated as soon as possible, I don’t want to get sick.”

The Ponich family is calling on the provincial and federal governments to acknowledge people with Down syndrome as high risk.

“Families are going to have to lead the charge on this one,” Michelle said.

“It really shouldn’t be a difficult decision to make. For our government to acknowledge that people born with Down syndrome are at high risk and that they should be prioritized for the vaccination.

“As a family, we just want to make sure Tanya is protected,” Michelle added. “I don’t want my sister or any of her friends to become a statistic in all this.”

Provinces like B.C. and Ontario are leading the charge, already ranking those with pre-existing health concerns. However, Alberta is not ready to release its plan just yet.

“To make those decisions we have to first know how many doses we are getting,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro said in a COVID-19 update with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Monday. “This is again going back to supply and the need for federal government to advocate for Canada.

“As I’ve said before, we need more vaccines,” he noted.

The Canadian Down Syndrome Society has been lobbying the federal health minister and remains optimistic there will be news by February.

“The message at that time was your group was flagged even before you had reached out to us. You've been heard but the due process calls for a peer review,” Laura LaChance, the interim director of Canadian Down Syndrome Society, said.

Tanya remains hopeful amid all the uncertainty surrounding the vaccine rollout.

“I’m an advocate, and people keep telling me what is your message to give people? I give everybody hope,” she said.