Association for Psychological Science

Depression and Stress Could Dampen Efficacy of COVID-19 Vaccines

Interventions and Health Behavior Changes Could Boost Immunity

Newswise — Decades of research show that depression, stress, loneliness, and poor health behaviors can weaken the body’s immune system and lower the effectiveness of certain vaccines. A new report accepted for publication in Perspectives on Psychological Science suggests that the same may be true for the new COVID-19 vaccines that are in development and the early stages of global distribution. Fortunately, it may be possible to reduce these negative effects with simple steps like exercise and sleep.

Vaccines are among the safest and most effective advances in medical history, protecting society from a wide range of otherwise devastating diseases, including smallpox and polio. The key to their success, however, is ensuring that a critical percentage of the population is effectively vaccinated to achieve so-called herd immunity.

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, 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.

This is particularly troubling as the novel coronavirus continues to rage across the world, trigging 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.

“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 behaviors 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.”

Vaccines work by challenging the immune system. Within hours of a vaccination, there is an innate, general immune response on the cellular level as the body begins to recognize a potential biological threat. This frontline response by the immune system is eventually aided by the production of antibodies, which target specific pathogens. It is the continued production of antibodies that helps to determine how effective a vaccine is at conferring long-term protection.

“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 good news, according to the researchers, is that the COVID-19 vaccines already in circulation are approximately 95% effective. Even so, these psychological and behavioral factors can lengthen the amount of time it takes to develop immunity and can shorten the duration of immunity.

“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 maximize 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 behavioral 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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Released: 15-Apr-2021 4:10 PM EDT
Penn Study Suggests Those Who Had COVID-19 May Only Need One Vaccine Dose
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

New findings from Penn suggest that people who have recovered from COVID-19 may only need a single mRNA vaccine dose. However, those who did not have COVID-19 did not have a full immune response until after a second vaccine dose, reinforcing the importance of completing the two recommended doses.

Released: 15-Apr-2021 4:00 PM EDT
June 2021 Issue of AJPH Comprises the Effects of COVID-19 on Drug Overdoses, E-cigarette Use, and Public Health Measures and Strategies
American Public Health Association (APHA)

June 2021 AJPH Issue highlights COVID-19 concerns in relation to fatal drug overdoses, drops in youth e-cigarette use, importance of public health measures, and strategies to protect correctional staff.

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Released: 15-Apr-2021 3:20 PM EDT
COVID-19 reduces access to opioid dependency treatment for new patients
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COVID-19 has been associated with increases in opioid overdose deaths, which may be in part because the pandemic limited access to buprenorphine, a treatment used for opioid dependency, according to a new study led by Princeton University researchers.

Newswise: UGA to Establish National NIH-funded Center to Fight Flu
Released: 15-Apr-2021 2:45 PM EDT
UGA to Establish National NIH-funded Center to Fight Flu
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The National Institutes of Health has awarded the University of Georgia a contract to establish the Center for Influenza Disease and Emergence Research (CIDER). The contract will provide $1 million in first-year funding and is expected to be supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of NIH, for seven years and up to approximately $92 million.

Released: 15-Apr-2021 2:15 PM EDT
Meatpacking plants increased COVID-19 cases in US counties
University of California, Davis

An estimated 334,000 COVID-19 cases are attributable to meatpacking plants, resulting in $11.2 billion in economic damage, according to a new study led by a researcher at the University of California, Davis.

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Released: 15-Apr-2021 1:55 PM EDT
How to build a city that prioritizes public health
Colorado State University

Most people by now have memorized the public health guidelines meant to help minimize transmission of COVID-19: wash your hands, wear a mask, keep six feet apart from others. That part is easy.

Released: 15-Apr-2021 1:45 PM EDT
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Wake Forest Baptist Health

Open Standard Industries, Inc. (OSI), manufacturer of the OSR-M1 non-valved reusable elastomeric face mask, is pleased to formally announce the launch of its first Institutional Review Board (IRB)-approved user feasibility study. The trial is being led by the departments of Biomedical Engineering and Infectious Diseases at Wake Forest School of Medicine, part of Wake Forest Baptist Health. Recruitment in the study is underway, and enrollment is expected to be completed by May 28, 2021.

Newswise: Major clinical trial to test Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine opens for enrollment at UTHealth in Houston
Released: 15-Apr-2021 1:45 PM EDT
Major clinical trial to test Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine opens for enrollment at UTHealth in Houston
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

A large national clinical trial to evaluate the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for safety and efficacy in pregnant women is now open for enrollment at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

Released: 15-Apr-2021 1:15 PM EDT
For veterans, a hidden side effect of COVID: Feelings of personal growth
Yale University

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Released: 15-Apr-2021 12:55 PM EDT
Significant spread of all coronavirus variants tracked in Houston area
Elsevier

In late 2020, several concerning SARS-CoV-2 variants emerged globally. They are believed to be more easily transmissible, and there is concern that some may reduce the effectiveness of antibody treatments and vaccines.


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