Some mood disorders are included in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list. list of underlying conditions that can increase a person’s risk of becoming severely ill if they are infected with COVID-19.
Depression and schizophrenia spectrum disorders are now among the health conditions that appear on the CDC’s list of factors that qualify someone for a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine. According to HuffPost, the change was made by the agency on Thursday. Anyone 18 and over who has one of these conditions can now apply for a third shot six month after their first one.
Mental health and severe COVID: Why it is important
Over the past months experts have urged the CDC not to exclude certain mental illnesses from its list. In a September letter to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, which was shared with HuffPost, some of the nation’s top mental health organizations called the exclusion “simply unacceptable.”
“Officially designating mental illnesses that have been confirmed by research to carry a unique mortality risk during the pandemic for prioritization by the CDC is the only scientifically and morally defensible action to take,” said the group, which included Mental Health America and the American Psychiatric Association.
A striking piece of research was cited in the letter that showed how interrelated certain mental illnesses and severe COVID results can be.
One study foundFor reasons that researchers are still not able to understand, schizophrenia was second in the list of risk factors for COVID-related deaths. Older age was the largest risk factor. It’s possible there is something about the biology of schizophrenia that makes people more susceptible to COVID-19 — perhaps some kind of immune system disturbance, researchers studying the connection have saidIt is possible. Researches are also looking into whether medications used for the treatment of this condition might play a part.
Other studies have found that people with mood disorders such as depression have a similar risk of hospitalization and death from COVID when compared to those with underlying health issues such as diabetes and cancer — though, again, why that is remains unclear. People with depression might have some kind of impaired immune response, but they’re also at higher risk of other physical health issues. The social determinants of our health like poverty might play an important role.
A long-awaited and important shift
Mental health groups say the CDC’s decision to include certain mood disorders and schizophrenia to its list of underlying conditions is both welcome and overdue.
“Officially designating mental illnesses that have been confirmed by research to carry a unique mortality risk during the pandemic for prioritization by the CDC is a scientific and moral imperative. This action has the potential to save many lives,” Lisa Dailey, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center, said in a statement to HuffPost.
“Mental health is health, and we applaud the CDC for recognizing that, and following the research, in this list of underlying conditions.”
Schools, employers, and state and local governments look to the CDC for guidance on how people in high-risk groups can best protect themselves — so including this new group of people on the list has important practical implications. It allows people suffering from certain mood disorders or schizophrenia to access booster shots. if they decide toAs their immunity deteriorates over time. (Boosters are currently only eligible for qualifying recipients of the Pfizer vaccine, but the Food and Drug Administration voted in favor of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters this week. Expect the CDC to soon issue its recommendations.
“Now that some mental health conditions have been added to the CDC’s list of underlying conditions, we recommend those living with these conditions speak with their health providers about whether a booster shot is appropriate,” Schroeder Stribling, president and CEO of Mental Health America, said in a statement to HuffPost.
And though this does not appear to be the CDC’s primary purpose in updating its list, the change serves another important purpose as well: It clearly sends the message that ― despite the stigma that continues to surround it ― mental health and physical health are not separate.
“Mental health is health, and we applaud the CDC for recognizing that, and following the research, in this list of underlying conditions,” Stribling said.
COVID-19 remains a mystery to experts. This story contains information that was available at the time of publication. However, guidance may change as more scientists learn about this virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionGet the latest recommendations.