Depression, stress may reduce efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, scientists say
(Sourced from PTI)
Depression, stress, and loneliness can weaken the body's immune system, and lower the effectiveness of certain vaccines, including the new COVID-19 preventives, scientists said. According to a report accepted for publication in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, simple interventions, including exercise and getting a good night's sleep in the 24 hours before vaccination, may maximize the vaccine's initial effectiveness.
Researchers noted that even though rigorous testing has shown that the COVID-19 vaccines approved for distribution in the US 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, they said.
"In addition to the physical toll, COVID-19 has an equally troubling mental health component, causing anxiety and depression. 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.
Vaccines work by challenging the immune system. Within hours of vaccination, there is an innate, general immune response on the cellular level as the body begins to recognize a potential biological threat. This response is eventually aided by the production of antibodies, which target specific pathogens. The continued production of antibodies 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.
According to the researchers, most COVID-19 vaccines already in circulation are approximately 95 percent effective. However, psychological and behavioral factors can lengthen the amount of time it takes to develop immunity. "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," said Kiecolt-Glaser.
One strategy is to engage in vigorous exercise and get a good night's sleep in the 24 hours before vaccination so that the immune system is operating at peak performance. This ensures that the 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.