Could mental health influence the effectiveness of vaccines?

A study reveals that mental health can influence how the immune system reacts to a vaccine .

Hand holding a vial of a vaccine

Mental health can influence how the immune system reacts to a vaccine. / Photo: Freepik

LatinAmerican Post | Vanesa López Romero

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Leer en español: ¿La salud mental podría influir en la efectividad de las vacunas?

A pre-published study in Advance: social scince and humanities journal, ensures that the mental health status of individuals can influence the immune reaction after receiving a vaccine. The article was written by Janice Kielcolt-Glasser, lead author of the research, in company with Annelise Madison, Rosie Shrout and Megan Renna. Kielcolt is the director of the Institute for Research in Behavioral Medicine at the Ohio State University School of Medicine. The group collect and analyze studies from the past 30 years that have documented the impact of behavioral and psychological factors on the immune system . Furthermore, these studies have shown that poor mental health can prolong and worsen the side effects of vaccines .

Although the study took into account a wide variety of vaccines, the results are especially relevant now because of the vaccination process against COVID-19 that has already started in approximately 52 countries, including Chile, Spain, the United States, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina .

One of the cases that led to the conclusion that the state of mental health directly influences the effectiveness of vaccines in the body, was a study dedicated to review how much and in what way stress changes the response of the body and its immune system to the Hepatitis B vaccine . "People who are more stressed and anxious may take longer to respond to vaccines," Kielcolt tells Insider magazine.

According to the research, some of the factors that can influence the effectiveness of vaccines are stress, depression, loneliness, and unhealthy behaviors . The experts explain that when a vaccine is applied, the body initiates a delicate biological process in which the immune system begins a high production of antibodies. Poor mental health can cause this production of antibodies to be delayed or, even, it can happen that they occur quickly, but the levels of antibodies do not remain for more than two weeks or a month , contrary to those individuals who with mental stability can maintain a level of antibodies regulated and not lowered to the minimum for up to six months.

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The study warns that this does not mean that the COVID-19 vaccine is ineffective , but rather there must be important mental and behavioral care to ensure that these vaccines do their duty. Likewise, it is called to pay special attention and care to the most vulnerable communities, such as the elderly, children, people with limited resources, among others.

So ... what can I do?

Mental health is as important as physical health and the one is intrinsically related to the other, so it is necessary to take very responsible care of both. The researchers suggest that what this study seeks to affirm is that the vaccination process cannot be passive, but that whoever is vaccinated must also do their part . In this case: take care of your mental health, avoid stressful situations, or that generate depression, crisis, and that put the person in a state that is dangerous for him or herself.

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