By Jennifer O’Hara
More than two full years of living in the COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on children and their families. During the most recent omicron surge, pediatric infection rates were particularly concerning for pediatricians across the country.
Parents of children younger than 5 years of age are feeling especially concerned, as vaccines have not yet been approved in this age group. But that may change soon, as Pfizer has recently submitted a request to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine for kids 6 months to 5 years old.
Beyond the direct effects of COVID-19 infections on children are the psychosocial and mental health effects of the pandemic. Isolation and socioeconomic stressors on families affect children, too.
“One in 6 children has sought mental health services in the past two years,” says is Dr. James Gaensbauer, a pediatric infectious diseases physician at Mayo Clinic Children’s Center. “The American Academy of Pediatrics has declared a mental health emergency during this pandemic.”
Dr. Gaensbauer points out it is important for parents to keep an open dialogue and be empathetic with kids about their fears and anxieties. Resources are available to help families, including the Mayo Clinic Family Stress Resource Center.
On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Gaensbauer joins Ask the Mayo Mom host Dr. Angela Mattke to discuss how children and their families have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.