Why some of your vaccine ‘side effects’ may be just placebo

A health care worker receiving the Pfizer-BioNtech covid-19 vaccine at Jackson Memorial Hospital on December 15, 2020, in Miami, Florida.

Healthcare worker receives Pfizer-BioNtech covid-19 vaccine at Jackson Memorial Hospital on December 15, 2020, in Miami, Florida.
Photo: Joe Raedle (Getty Images)

Millions of Americans are getting the covid-19 vaccine on average every day now, and although many people are proudly shared their vaccination status on social media, others will report theirs mild but certainly noticeable side effects immediately after such a badge of honor, such as a sore arm or flu-like fatigue. But vaccination may not cause everyone ‘s symptoms after the vaccine – some may be caused by a bad pairing of the placebo effect.

Just for proper clarification above, there is nothing wrong with getting any side effects after getting the vaccine, whatever the reason. If anything, these side effects are often a sign of the body ‘s immune system kicking into gear, as it learns to identify who the coronavirus is after receiving a plan of its appearance from the vaccine (usually its spike protein, which the virus uses cellular infection). It is this immune response that tends to account for symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and general soreness for a day or two after receiving the vaccine. Usually, but not always.

Let’s take a look back at the clinical trial data for the two-dose mRNA vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, the first to reach the American public in December last year. The data, based on more than 30,000 volunteers, shows that it is a safe and effective vaccine, but not one that is free from side effects. Approximately 84% had injection site reactions such as pain or itching in the week after dose; 63% suffered from fatigue; 55% had headaches.

Looking at these numbers alone, it makes sense that most people who get the vaccine will feel something. But surprisingly enough, in the same test, a large proportion of people received the bullet also familiar some of these symptoms. After the first placebo view, about a third of people reported being obese, and about a third reported a headache. Nearly 12% of those on placebo also developed diarrhea after the first sighting, more than did the vaccination group after both doses. As a reminder, the people on the placebo received only a bullet of saline solution, aka salt and water.

Now, some of those people who got the placebo picture may have been tired, headaches, or diarrhea that day no matter what, even if they hadn’t been to court – a Gizmodo topic covered recently before. Unfortunately these are very common diseases, caused by many different things. But some may only have experienced them because of something we call the “nocebo effect”. ”Just as our positive expectations can make us feel better after taking a new treatment, at least for a while, our negative expectations can make us feel different and make us feel better. crummy. On Twitter, some even have admit to feeling worse after taking the placebo than they did after taking the real thing later.

There is a tendency to dismiss the placebo / nocebo effect as just the result of the mind. But every impression we get processed in the mind at the end, so that doesn’t say much at all. At times, this sensation can be traced back to a very physical cause – a hot stove with a touch – and sometimes, it is more complicated. The pressure a person may feel about taking a newly developed vaccine, or even about taking a vaccine in general, if they hate needles, may be enough to cause a headache. on them or wear them down to a fat level.

None of this is unusual in the slightest, it’s just human nature. And while it shouldn’t be said, a person’s origin of pain, nocebo or not, does not diminish the need to recognize that pain and try to cure it if possible. But the placebo / nocebo effect is one of the reasons why we need carefully designed research, such as controlled clinical trials, to better understand the world around us. This is especially important in trying to find out the potential benefits and risks of a new drug or vaccine. Fortunately, the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine and others like it have their benefits in keeping us safe from serious illness and death. becoming clearer every day, especially in countries where vaccination is high.

So go ahead and get the vaccine as soon as possible. Just keep in mind that you may not have the grogginess after the picture being from the majority obvious reason.