Depression may lower effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines


Many studies have shown that depression, stress, loneliness, and poor health behaviors can deteriorate the immune system and lower the efficacy of certain vaccines.

A new report accepted for publication in Perspectives on Psychological Science suggested that the same could happen in the case of Covid-19 vaccines that are in development and the early stages of global distribution.

Even though rigorous testing has shown that the Covid-19 vaccines approved for distribution in the United States are highly effective at producing a robust immune response. However, not everyone will immediately gain their full benefit.

Environmental factors, as well as an individual’s genetics and physical and mental health, can weaken the body’s immune system, slowing the response to a vaccine, the researchers of the new study noted.

This comes as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage across the world with new variants, triggering a concurrent mental health crisis.

Lead author Annelise Madison, a researcher at The Ohio State University, said, “In addition to the physical toll of COVID-19, the pandemic has an equally troubling mental health component, causing anxiety and depression, among many other related problems. Emotional stressors like these can affect a person’s immune system, impairing their ability to ward off infections.”

“Our new study sheds light on vaccine efficacy and how health behaviours and emotional stressors can alter the body’s ability to develop an immune response. The trouble is that the pandemic in and of itself could be amplifying these risk factors,” Madison added.

However, there is some respite with Covid-19 vaccines as some of them elicit 95 per cent immune response. So, it should work against the virus despite the disrupted mental health of people.

Even so, these psychological and behavioural factors can lengthen the amount of time it takes to develop immunity and can shorten the duration of immunity.

The researchers suggested a strategy that is to engage in vigorous exercise and get a good night’s sleep in the 24 hours before vaccination so that your immune system is operating at peak performance.

Madison concluded, “Prior research suggests that psychological and behavioural interventions can improve vaccine responsiveness. Even shorter-term interventions can be effective. Therefore, now is the time to identify those at risk for poor immune response and intervene on these risk factors.”


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