Mental health diagnoses could qualify people for COVID boosters

Vaccine stock photo.
Photo credit Getty Images

Now that COVID-19 vaccine booster doses are available in the U.S., people diagnosed with mood disorders and schizophrenia spectrum disorders are among those who can get Pfizer and Moderna shots.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, mood disorders are a “a mental health class that health professionals use to broadly describe all types of depression and bipolar disorders,” and schizophrenia is a “complex brain disorder,” caused by a chemical imbalance that can have symptoms such as delusions and hallucination.

These conditions were added to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention list of underlying conditions associated with a high risk for severe COVID-19 infection last week, according to USA Today. This week, the CDC announced that it recommended Pfizer and Moderna booster shots for seniors age 65 and older as well as adults in long-term care, high risk settings and with underlying conditions if they received their first two-dose round at least six months ago.

Johnson & Johnson boosters were also approved for all adults regardless of risk. The initial single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine has the lowest efficacy of those approved in the U.S.

Some experts think it took too long for mental health disorders to be put on the CDC list of underlying conditions.

“This is a reflection of an essential bias and stigma,” said Schroeder Stribling, president and CEO of Mental Health America, a nonprofit promoting mental health awareness and services, according to USA Today. “It’s very hard to overcome this false dichotomy that we have about mental health and physical health.”

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, at least three separate studies have shown that people with mental health disorders have a higher risk of severe infection. These include: a study published JAMA Psychiatry journal that found schizophrenia spectrum disorders were associated with an increased risk of death from COVID-19, another study published in the same journal that found people with mood disorders had a significantly higher risk for severe infection from the virus and a study published in The Lancet Psychiatry with similar results.

Previous research has shown that mood disorders are linked with a higher occurrence of diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular disease, conditions that are also on the CDC’s list of underlying high-risk conditions.

“For too long, public programs and federal agencies have continued to not pay attention to the importance of mental health,” said Benjamin Miller, president of Well Being Trust, a nonprofit health foundation. He said that adding the conditions to the list is “a good course correction on the part of the CDC.”

LISTEN on the Audacy App
Sign Up and Follow Audacy
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram