Prioritise vaccines for those with severe mental health issues, say European experts
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Prioritise vaccines for those with severe mental health issues, say European experts

Credit: Belga

People suffering from severe psychiatric illnesses are exposed to increased medical risks as a result of the coronavirus and should therefore be included on the list of those who get priority access to a Covid-19 vaccine, researchers from European organizations said yesterday.

“These patients are twice as likely to be hospitalized and die,” says their paper, published in the peer-reviewed journal Lancet Psychiatry.

“We therefore find it worrying that the vast majority of countries studied do not mention psychiatry or mental disorders at all in their vaccination strategy,” said lead author Livia De Picker, associated with the University of Antwerp and Duffel University Psychiatric Center.

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The researchers looked at the strategy of vaccination campaigns in 20 different countries and found that only the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, and the United Kingdom gave priority to people with severe mental illnesses, including conditions such as psychosis or severe mood disorders.

In Belgium, the Superior Health Council (CSS) mentioned people with psychiatric disorders in its opinion on priority groups, but De Picker says the document they produced is based on false, or even stigmatizing ideas.

“The Council assumed that these patients would already be among those targeted for priority vaccination because they reside in institutions, which is false. Today, most people with severe mental disorders live in the community.”

The chairperson of the board of directors of the Emmaus healthcare network, Inge Vervotte, agreed that more attention should be paid to mental health.

“Everyone is worried about the increase in mental health problems that will stem from the Covid epidemic,” Verotte said. “But people already prone to serious mental health problems are more likely to suffer from the situation. We are calling for appropriate action for people with severe psychiatric disorders.”

Helen Lyons
The Brussels Times

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