A psychiatrist says Ireland could now become an example to other countries, after people with severe mental illnesses were moved up the vaccine queue.
The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC), which advises the chief medical officer on vaccines, decided yesterday that serious mental disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar will be prioritised for the COVID-19 vaccine.
They will now be included in the eighth group to receive the vaccine in Ireland, after people aged 65 – 69.
It comes after a recent study in the Lancet journal found those with illnesses like schizophrenia are twice as likely to die from the virus.
It found their risk of dying from the virus is similar to people who have heart problems, and is in the highest risk group.
Dr Eric Kelleher from the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland, praised the latest decision.
He said: “NIAC based that decision on the very clear evidence that those with a severe mental illness have worse outcomes with Covid-19.
“It’s really about parity of esteem between those with severe mental illness and physical illness.”
People with severe mental health issues are more at risk of dying from COVID-19 as they tend to be more likely to have underlying conditions, like obesity and diabetes.
Dr Kelleher also said they may have cognitive issues, dementia or delusional beliefs which may make it harder for them to maintain social distancing and comply with guidelines
After yesterday’s decision, Ireland is now one of the only nations in the world to put people with severe mental issues in high priority vaccine groups.
Other European countries that have already done this include the UK, Denmark, Germany, Finland and the Netherlands.
Dr Kelleher said he hopes Ireland’s decision will inspire other countries.
He said: “I think the more countries that continue to include severe mental illness as a vaccine priority group, hopefully that will lead to other countries following the emerging evidence.”