Complaints after vaccination for COVID-19? This could be a nocebo effect

Complaints after vaccination for COVID-19? This could be a nocebo effect

Could it be that we’re simply being told the side effects of coronavirus vaccination? Research says it’s not uncommon.

Placebo versus nocebo – what is the difference?

When a patient is convinced that he or she is receiving a medicine that is actually, for example, a candy, he or she declares an improvement in health after taking the fake medicine. In other words, a placebo, although it doesn’t actually work, gives the impression of improved well-being.

In contrast, a nocebo, although it also does not actually have the ability to induce specific reactions, gives sensations of real side effects: headaches, muscle aches, or fever.

Psychologists reason that somatic symptoms are most often triggered by negative suggestion from the environment: whether from doctors, information on the Internet or on medical leaflets. Patients expect adverse reactions, so they become more sensitive to bodily reactions and attribute everyday sensations resulting from stress, for example, to what they have recently been warned against.

Nocebo effect after vaccination for COVID-19

Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center conducted a study in which some participants received real coronavirus vaccines, and some, despite believing they were getting such a vaccine, received an inactive substance. After the vaccinations, a survey was conducted among the subjects, in which they described how they felt after the visit.

The results showed that after the first dose of the vaccine, 35% of those who received the placebo felt unwell: they experienced headaches, fever and weakness. Only 46% of those who received the real vaccine reported such symptoms.

In contrast, after the second dose in the placebo group, the number of people who experienced inconvenience dropped to 32%. For that, as many as 61% of those who took the real vaccine reported feeling worse.

What are the side effects of the COVID vaccine?

The observed discomfort and side effects after vaccination for COVID-19 are short-lived and of low to moderate intensity. They are more common after the second dose of the vaccine. The most commonly reported symptoms after vaccination for COVID-19 are:

  • fever,
  • fatigue,
  • headache,
  • muscle aches,
  • chills,
  • diarrhea,
  • pain at the injection site.

Read: Painful arm after COVID-19 vaccination

Importantly, if you experience symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, a feeling of rapid heartbeat, fluttering or palpitations after vaccine administration, you should see a doctor immediately.

Don’t let unwanted symptoms fool you! Reach out to proven sources of knowledge, which are official government websites, WHO or with a scientific background. When it comes to your health, don’t skip tests, including preventive ones, to confirm or refute presumed diagnoses.


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