NASHville — COVID-19 is exacerbating both physical and mental health crises among children, according to the leader of Monroe Carell Junior Children’s Hospital in Vanderbilt.
President Dr. Meg Rush said that pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations in recent weeks have put pressure on a worker already working at or near capacity for the past six months. But she also noted another alarming trend: children experiencing behavioral and mental health crises.
He called it a “parallel pandemic” for COVID-19 during a Congressional hearing on Wednesday.
“Children and families across the country face significant disruptions to their daily lives due to COVID-19,” Rush said. “I have consistently, if not more, the number of children admitted to my hospital in the past six weeks with a behavioral health primary diagnosis as I have (for) COVID.”
The number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations among children rose sharply over the summer and as school reopened nationwide, according to Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Tennessee, COVID-19 Pediatric Cases and hospitalization also reached record high. hospitalized dropped in recent weeks but remained high Statewide.
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Rush shared about his experience during a congressional hearing in Washington. The hearing titled “Putting Kids First: Addressing the Effects of COVID-19 on Children” was hosted by the Energy and Commerce Staff Committee.
The committee, speakers and dozens of delegates discussed the negative mental health effects of the pandemic on children during a two-and-a-half-hour hearing. Much of the discussion rests on how virtual learning, quarantine and isolation can disrupt children’s education and socialization.
The hearing also included discussion Long-term health effects of COVID-19 in children, which may include swelling of the heart and other organs, fatigue, headache, insomnia, dizziness and difficulty concentrating.
Rush also talked about vaccine hesitation in the form of declining vaccination rates in Tennessee and across the South. As of Tuesday, 44% of Tennessee’s people were fully vaccinated, according to state data. Nationwide, about 55% are fully vaccinated, CDC to date.
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“Our low vaccination rates are clearly correlated with the fact that Tennessee intermittently ranks No. 1 for the highest number of COVID-positive cases in both adults and children — as recently as Monday of this week. – resulting in a higher number of hospitalizations.”
Rush and other speakers have repeatedly cited vaccination as the safest and most effective way to bring the epidemic under control.
Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved under emergency use authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration for children 12 years of age and older. Pfizer-BioNtech said this week an internal study showed that COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for children ages 5 to 11 One-third of the dose used in adolescents and adults. The FDA and CDC will need to sign off on the vaccine before it becomes available to more children, but government officials have promised an early review of the data.
Along with Rush, speakers included Dr. Lee Savio Beers, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics; Arthur Evans, CEO of the American Psychological Association; Vaxtin founder and high school senior Kelly Danielpour; and epidemiologist and public health expert Dr. Tracy Beth Hogg.
Follow Rachel Wegner on Twitter @rachelannwegner