Hey, you know those mental health conditions that were exacerbated by COVID? They’ll limit the effectiveness of vaccines created to treat it. Cool. 

 

 

While decades of research has confirmed that depression, stress, loneliness can weaken the body’s immune system and lower the effectiveness of certain vaccines. However, a new report accepted for publication in Perspectives on Psychological Science suggests that the same may be true for the new raft of COVID-19 vaccines.

This is particularly troubling as the pandemic has trigged a concurrent mental health crisis as people deal with isolation, economic stressors, and uncertainty about the future. These challenges are the same factors that have been previously shown to weaken vaccine efficacy, particularly among the elderly.

 

Based on prior research, one strategy the researchers suggest 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. This may help ensure that the best and strongest immune response happens as quickly as possible.

 

“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,” said Annelise Madison, a researcher at The Ohio State University and lead author on the paper. “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.”

“The thing that excites me is that some of these factors are modifiable. It’s possible to do some simple things to maximize the vaccine’s initial effectiveness…in our research, we focus most heavily on the antibody response, though it is just one facet of the adaptive immune system’s response,” said Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at The Ohio State University and senior author on the paper.

“The thing that excites me is that some of these factors are modifiable,” said Kiecolt-Glaser. “It’s possible to do some simple things to maximise the vaccine’s initial effectiveness.”

Based on prior research, one strategy the researchers suggest 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. This may help ensure that the best and strongest immune response happens as quickly as possible.

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

 

 

 

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