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June 19, 2021

Fauci speaks at Penn Medicine event, addresses youth mental health and COVID-19 vaccines

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Anthony Fauci, Penn Medicine Source/Sipa PA

Anthony Fauci was the keynote speaker at a Penn Medicine event Friday, where he discussed the importance of young people getting vaccinated and the mental health impact of the pandemic.

The nation's leading infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, spoke at a Penn Medicine virtual event Friday, addressing mental health among young people and the importance of getting vaccinated.

"America is extraordinarily fortunate to be emerging from the very darkest days of this historic COVID-19 pandemic, through a concerted effort to vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible," Fauci said, the Associated Press reported. "This is how we will defeat this pandemic and restore our lives, each of us doing our part by getting vaccinated to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities."

Fauci said the isolation and social distancing has been difficult for adolescents and young people. He said it's important to talk about the disruption to education, isolation from friends, and overall grief and anxiety young people experienced.

Research shows that the pandemic had a negative impact on teens' mental health. Emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts by adolescent girls are up over 50% in the past year compared to 2019, the Centers for Disesase Control and Prevention found.

Another study from the CDC found emergency department visits related to mental health were up 24% for children aged 5 to 11 and 31% for adolescents aged 12 to 17 from last April and October.

"Gen Zers who have been exposed to unexpected death or threat of death, and then not be able to gather and grieve a loss … you may have nightmares, or feel guilty, or become jumpy and irritable, which can lead to unhealthy coping, such as using substances," E. Cabrina Campbell, a professor of psychiatry at Penn Medicine and a panelist, said

Campbell said families should keep track of those symptoms and seek help if they last for more than a month.

Some COVID-19 patients are experiencing lingering health problems like fatigue, shortness of breath, dry cough, and chest pain. This condition can be dangerous for children and teens. 

Fauci and the panelists pushed for young people to get vaccinated when it's their turn. 

Clinical trial data showed the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were effective in preventing COVID-19 among adolescents. 

Fauci was the keynote speaker at the virtual event, and Penn Medicine’s adolescent and young adult medicine division awarded him with its inaugural Humanism in Medicine award for his "incredible, life saving leadership," and his commitment to scientific facts during the pandemic.

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