According to new Israeli research, there are frequently psychosomatic side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines, which makes this a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.
On Monday, a peer-reviewed study was published which said that people are more likely to experience side-effects of the vaccine if they are hesitant about taking it in the first place.
A ‘nocebo’ effect
The study claimed that this is actually a ‘nocebo’ effect, which makes it the polar opposite of the placebo effect.
In the latter, there are positive impacts due to a fake intervention and in the former, simply thinking about negative impacts makes them materialize.
The researchers said that vaccine hesitancy is the reason that most meaningful and quantifiable side-effects of COVID-19 vaccines occur.
They said that this indicated that there is a psychosomatic nocebo element in individuals who get vaccinated.
Scientific Reports is the journal that published this peer-reviewed study. It was carried out in a collaboration between the Warwick University in the United Kingdom and the University of Haifa, the Bar Ilan University and the Ariel University.
A total of 750 people over the age of 60 had been asked about the level of their hesitancy associated with getting vaccinated and the side effects they experienced after the second shot and then the third one.
The lead author of the study, Prof. Yaakov Hoffman, works at the interdisciplinary department of social sciences at the Bar Ilan University.
He said that they wanted to determine if there was hesitancy in taking the vaccine, which means that people are not anti-vaxx, but they boast a negative disposition in regard to the vaccine.
The answers of the people questioned were analyzed by the scholars and they found that vaccine hesitancy had resulted in side effects.
In fact, there was a 16% higher incidence of symptoms post vaccination due to vaccine hesitancy. But, the researchers also found that this did not apply to the other direction.
Those who experienced side effects after getting the second shot of the vaccine did not turn out to be more likely to hesitate in getting the third dose.
Hoffman said that the research showed that active treatment is not responsible for all the complaints. He said that it was important to know this because a lot of people avoid the vaccine over concerns of side effects.
Therefore, they need to understand that psychological factors also contribute to the side effects. He also said that there is a possibility that spreading awareness about the ‘nocebo’ effect could reduce side effects.
He went on to say that there were policy implications associated with their research. He said that it was not enough to communicate to people that vaccines are safe and the side effects are minimal.
He asserted that they need to be informed about the nocebo effect, so they understand that there could be a psychological element.
He added that people being aware about the nocebo effect could help reduce the incidence of the symptoms.