SARANAC LAKE – Dr. Patricia Monroe has cared for countless children in this region over the past 22 years. She has never seen so many children struggling with mental health issues as she has recently.
Monroe, speaking to reporters at a virtual press conference on Tuesday, underscored the immense mental health impact the pandemic has had on local teens and children, and how the ongoing rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has been a source of health benefits for many of them. hope has become.
“I’ve seen many – an amazing amount – mental health problems in the past year,” she said. “More than I’ve ever had in my 22 years as a pediatrician. What they see this is a way to get back to being a normal teenager. They are very excited to do that, and I am very excited that they are doing that, believe me. “
Monroe’s patients aren’t alone. A study by FAIR Health, a New York nonprofit, found that, compared to 2019, mental health claims for U.S. teens between the ages of 13 and 18 increased by 97% in March 2020 and in April 2020 with 103.5%. A report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that while the number of children attending the emergency room declined in 2020, a higher proportion of children’s visits was related to mental health. The share of mental health-related visits for children 5 to 11 years old increased by 24% last year and by 31% for children 12 to 17 years old. Emergency care is often the primary concern for children with mental health emergencies, according to the CDC.
Because of the pandemic, teens and children were held at home for months – many of them stayed at home with their parents. Children had to learn from a distance and spend less time in person with their friends. Some teens lost the opportunity to go to the prom or participate in a traditional graduation ceremony, or to experience many of the other rites of passage that those before them may have taken for granted. Monroe said it shouldn’t be.
“Teens are not supposed to spend all their time with their parents,” she said.
Right now, those 12 and older can get the Pfizer vaccine, which was approved earlier this month for the 12 to 15-year-old age group. For teens living in this area, getting the Pfizer vaccine may mean driving to Potsdam or Plattsburgh to be vaccinated at a state-run clinic.
Monroe’s office at the Hudson Headwaters practice in Saranac Lake has doses of the Moderna vaccine on hand, but at the moment it is only authorized for use in adults. Her office cannot stock the Pfizer vaccine because it comes in large quantities and must be stored at a very low temperature.
Moderna announced Tuesday that it planned to apply for an emergency use permit from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after discovering that the vaccine was safe and effective in children ages 12 to 17. It could offer a “moderna” vaccine to its patients. big improvement, ”said Monroe. The Moderna vaccine doesn’t need to be stored at ultra-low temperatures, so pediatricians like her can keep doses on hand.
“It would be very helpful for me as a private pediatrician to be able to discuss these things with my patients and say, ‘Are you ready? Do you have any other questions or would you like to have your child vaccinated today? ”, She said.
“I’m happy wherever my patients can get it,” added Monroe. “The county has vaccinated more than 100 children here in the Saranac Lake school district, which was very helpful. I know they have done some in Tupper (Lake) too. “
Easy access to the vaccine in the North Country is one thing, but there is a section of the population who are hesitant about vaccines or are unwilling to get vaccinated. Monroe said she has seen some in her patients, but especially in the parents of her patients.
“I think some adults have caused some hesitation in some of my patients, for both good and bad reasons,” she said. “I’ve seen that a lot more.
“I have a number of patients whose parents are very reluctant to get vaccinated and may not want to. They are very respectful and listen to my discussion of why it is important to me. They chose to let me become their pediatrician. I really think my opinion is a little bit important to them, ”she added later. “I hope this will help resolve some of these issues as we get more information as a country and community.”
Monroe touched on one aspect of the hesitation about vaccines: the concern that the vaccines were going into production urgently.
“This whole year was a different experience, but this was science that’s been around for a long time,” she said. “We were lucky that it was ready for opportunities like this and that these are safe and effective vaccines. They were not rushed through the process. They were available and ready much more quickly because of the resources put into the world to make these vaccines. Most of these people have chosen to vaccinate their children against any other illnesses that I have asked or recommended to them in the past. I try to bring that into the conversation.
“This is the same process being done by a larger group of people with a lot more funding and motivation, if you want. But it is the same process, and it is a safe and effective process. “
Monroe ticked off a list of local doctors who all agreed the vaccine was safe.
“I haven’t met another pediatrician who doesn’t feel the same way I do,” she said.
Vaccines are not new, and neither is vaccine hesitation. Monroe said the pandemic has shown parents “what it’s like when we have a disease that is rampant and against which we don’t have a vaccine.
“At least it has made some of these conversations with my patients easier,” she said. “They think this will allow them to get back to their normal life, and that’s what they’re most excited about.”
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