Q: When will children and teenagers be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Michael Shea, MD, Intensivist and Chief Medical Director, Maui Health: Currently, none of the approved COVID-19 vaccines are applicable for young children/teenagers. This is because the vaccines still need to be tested in younger children as their immune systems are different than adults, so it’s not safe to assume the vaccine would be ideal for children. There are vaccine trials currently underway with children as young as 12, with results expected later this year and a new, pediatric vaccine available for our younger population.
However, the vaccines that are currently available can be used on older kids – 16 years of age and up. The Pfizer vaccine is approved for teens ages 16 and older, while the Moderna vaccine is approved for young adults ages 18 and older. At Maui Health’s vaccine clinics, we are administering the Pfizer vaccine, and any Hawaii resident age 16 and older can get vaccinated. Remember, at Maui Health, anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian to their vaccine appointment. Teenagers that qualify to receive the COVID-19 vaccine can and should get vaccinated as soon as possible to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Q: How can I get help for depression during the pandemic?
Michael Shea, MD, Intensivist and Chief Medical Director, Maui Health: According to some surveys, as many as half of people in the U.S. say the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their mental health. The isolation, financial worries, relationship problems and overall stress caused by the pandemic can be especially difficult for people who are prone to depression.
Everybody gets sad or upset at times, but if you feel especially “down,” hopeless or withdrawn from your usual activities, and the mood lasts for more than two weeks, you may be having a depressive episode. Other symptoms of depression include avoiding friends or family, increased irritability, changes in sleep habits or appetite and thinking about harming yourself.
Fortunately, help is available. If you don’t know where to start, talk with your primary care physician about how you’re feeling and how to get support. Talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy can help, and in some cases, depression can be treated with medication. Many mental health professionals are offering virtual visits during COVID so that you can talk to a counselor from the comfort of your own home.
There are also things you can do on your own to help take care of your mental health. Make sure you are taking care of your body by getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and staying physically active. Avoid alcohol and drugs, which can make depression worse. Stay connected with friends and family with phone calls, video chats or socially distanced visits. Limit the amount of upsetting news or content you consume and take breaks to relax or do activities you enjoy. Try a calming, mind-body practice like meditation, which has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety.
Finally, if you feel overwhelmed or are thinking about harming yourself or others, seek immediate help. Call the Hawaii mental health crisis line at (800) 753-6879, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.
* Physicians, providers and administrative staff who practice at Maui Health System hospitals and clinics answer questions from the public in “Healthwise Maui,” which appears on Thursdays. Maui Health System operates Maui Memorial Medical Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lana’i Community Hospital and accepts all patients. To submit a question, go to the website at mauihealth.org/healthwise.