People who are vaccinated against COVID-19 and have a history of certain mental illness may have an elevated risk of breakthrough infections, according to a new study.


Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco looked at data from 263,697 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs patients who had completed their vaccines and had at least one COVID-19 test. Slightly more than 51 percent received at least one psychiatric diagnosis within the last five years and 14.8 percent experienced a breakthrough COVID-19 infection.


Patients over 65 with substance abuse disorder, psychotic disorders, bipolar disorder, adjustment disorder and anxiety had increased risks of up to 24 percent for a breakthrough COVID-19 infection while patients younger than 65 faced 11 percent greater risk of a breakthrough case than those without a history of mental illness.


“Our research suggests that increased breakthrough infections in people with psychiatric disorders cannot be entirely explained by socio-demographic factors or pre-existing conditions,” said the study’s senior author Aoife O’Donovan. “It’s possible that immunity following vaccination wanes more quickly or more strongly for people with psychiatric disorders and/or they could have less protection to newer variants.”


“Mental health is important to consider in conjunction with other risk factors,” she continued, “and some patients should be prioritized for boosters and other critical preventive efforts.”