Covid-19: 76% of the adverse effects of vaccines are linked to the “nocebo effect”, according to researchers

Headaches, tiredness, body aches… Many people say they experience these side effects after getting vaccinated against Covid-19. However, most of these adverse effects could be attributable to the nocebo effect and not to the content of the vaccine itself, according to a study published on Monday, January 18, by American researchers. [étude en anglais].

The nocebo effect is the negative version of the placebo effect. In the same way that some people can feel relief just by swallowing a tablet, even if it only contains sugar, for example, other people consistently experience certain side effects listed in the package insert or that they have heard about, whether the treatment is real or does not contain any active substance.

Therefore, the US researchers wanted to quantify this nocebo effect after vaccination against Covid-19. These scientists from a Boston hospital, in connection with Harvard University, were interested in reports of adverse effects from 45,000 volunteers involved in twelve clinical trials of vaccination against Covid-19, all vaccines combined. To check the effectiveness of the injection, half of the volunteers received a real vaccine and the other half a placebo.

The results show that those who only received a neutral injection still experienced side effects in the days following the injection. After analyzing all the data, these researchers conclude that 76% of the adverse effects that occur after the first dose of the real vaccine against Covid-19 are due to this nocebo effect. This is also the case for 52% of reactions after the second dose.

According to these researchers, most side effects are not related to the content of the Covid-19 vaccine. More than half of these side effects happen because you expect to feel them. It’s mainly fatigue and headaches. But these undesirable effects are not imaginary for the patient; they are very real

The researchers hypothesize that it is stress or anxiety that induces this nocebo effect. Perhaps this is also why it is less important during the second injection: these researchers explain it due to greater patient confidence. Hence the importance, they conclude, of information transparency -even regarding this nocebo effect- and the quality of the relationship with the doctor.

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