Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Psychiatrists May Play Important Role in Facilitating Uptake of COVID-19 Vaccine by Patients With SMI

People with serious mental illness (SMI) should be among the high-priority groups to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, wrote Nicola Warren, M.B.B.S., of the University of Queensland, Australia, and colleagues in an editorial in JAMA Psychiatry.

In the article—appearing just days after health care workers in Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States began receiving the first COVID-19 vaccines—the authors outline obstacles to immunization confronting people with SMI and strategies for overcoming them.

“Mental health clinicians have a key role in advocating for priority access to a COVID-19 vaccination for those with SMI, as well as facilitating its uptake,” Warren and colleagues wrote. To ensure people with SMI receive the COVID-19 vaccine, they suggested that experts look to what is known about how people with SMI access existing vaccination programs.

They noted that influenza vaccination rates among people with SMI are as low as 25%. This may be due to limited understanding of the benefits of the vaccine and where to access it, as well as misconceptions about risks. “Mental health professionals are uniquely skilled to deliver this education, being able to adapt for those with communication difficulties and balance factors influencing decision-making,” they wrote. “This highlights the importance of an individualized and clear message while enhancing capacity to consent.”

Additional hurdles to patients with SMI getting vaccinated include cost and transportation to vaccination clinics. “[U]se of existing physical health programs; co-location of vaccine administration with mental health services; and, where possible, actually delivering the vaccine may help increase uptake among individuals with SMI,” Warren and colleagues wrote. “Given that almost 80% of individuals without health insurance do not get vaccinated for influenza, any COVID-19 vaccine should be provided at no cost to the individual.”

They concluded, “It is vital to commence planning and development of appropriate policies to ensure rapid delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Special Report: Patients With SMI in the Age of COVID-19—What Psychiatrists Need to Know.”

(Image: iStock/FotoDuets)

Join Former AMA President, Psychiatrist in New Campaign on Black Women’s Health

The AMA has launched a new campaign with other medical organizations to support Black women in a movement for healthy blood pressure. A two-part interview with radio talk show host Tom Joyner is being aired to spread the word. Part one is posted here; the second part will be available today (Wednesday, December 16) at 8 p.m. ET. In this episode, Joyner will interview the AMA’s first Black president, psychiatrist Patrice A. Harris, M.D., M.A. The AMA has also posted a toolkit for physicians as part of the campaign.

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