Because vaccine uptake is poor among young adults — and young adulthood is the beginning age for many mental health disorders — mental health professionals are uniquely qualified to help overcome COVID-19 immunization resistance. This is the message of an opinion piece published in JAMA Psychiatry in September.
As the second anniversary of the pandemic illness now known as COVID-19 approaches, it has become evident that current vaccines provide great protection against the disease’s worst ravages. COVID-19, of course, is a multisystem sickness produced by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which can be fatal.
“Mental health practitioners and teams are taught to employ empathy, reflective listening, and cooperative goal setting to help patients overcome obstacles,” the column’s writers, Dr. Noel T. Brewer and Dr. Neetu Abad write. […] A national aim is to use new techniques to increase adult immunization rates.”
Dr. Brewer is the University of North Carolina’s Gillings Distinguished Professor of Public Health.
“COVID-19 vaccine is our passport to more personal freedom,” Dr. Brewer stated in an email to Medical News Today. It allows us to go to stores, hang out with friends, and visit sick loved ones without fear of being attacked. Airlines may soon make it mandatory. In other states, COVID-19 cases have overwhelmed hospitals.”
“To avoid a national meltdown in emergency care this winter,” Dr. Brewer points out, “the nation needs to raise its COVID-19 vaccine coverage higher.” Mental health experts can engage with their patients to address their fears and guide them through the process of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 infection have proven to be highly efficient in averting severe symptoms.
The mRNA vaccines used by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are mRNA vaccinations. This means they include instructions for human cells to manufacture just one short piece of the spike protein, which is a major component of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The “m” in “messenger” stands for “messenger.”
This fragment of a protein is innocuous on its own. However, it gives the immune system enough “knowledge” to detect and eliminate the living virus if it comes into contact with it.
mRNA vaccines, unlike previous, inactivated virus-based immunizations, contain no potentially infectious material. It’s unclear whether these immunizations genuinely work to prevent illness. However, they can aid in the prevention of hospitalizations and deaths. New data from the United States and internationally suggests that unvaccinated people are now responsible for the great majority of COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations. Getting as many individuals vaccinated as possible is critical to public health.
Dr. Abad informed MNT that “the potential of mental health specialists and agencies to remove barriers to COVID-19 vaccination has received insufficient attention.”
“This type of care may be especially crucial in the setting of increased mental health concerns during the pandemic,” she added. “A deeper knowledge of how mental health affects the reception of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as a clearer definition of how mental health experts might assist, particularly in disproportionately afflicted populations, is critical now and could boost immunization efforts.”
Dr. Juveria Zaheer is an assistant professor in the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychiatry. She discussed the role of mental health experts in combating the epidemic in an interview with MNT. “One thing that has struck us [working in the mental health field] is that we recognize that this is a really important population.” […] We can undoubtedly play a significant role.”
“As a parent myself, I understand there’s a great value to [encouraging vaccination] so we can offer herd immunity,” Dr. Zaheer said, noting that virology and epidemiology are not her areas of expertise.