Covid vaccine: New study finds another surprising benefit of getting the jab

Vaccine benefits ‘outweigh the risks’ says Dr Amir Khan

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Receiving the coronavirus vaccines bring with it one obvious benefit: protecting you from potentially being hospitalised or dying from COVID-19. Now, researchers from the University of Southern California suggest that data indicates that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 does more than just protect people from infection.

Scientists tracked people who received a first dose of approved jabs between December 2020 and March 2021. Participants included 8,003 adults with respondents answering questions about COVID-19 vaccine status and self-reported mental distress as measured with the four-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ).

Mental heat regression models were then used to identify the change in PHQ scores and categorical indicators of mental distress resulting from the application of the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

People who were vaccinated between December 2020 and March 2021 reported decreased mental distress levels in the surveys conducted after receiving the first dose.

The report estimates an average of 15 percent reduction in the probability of being severely depressed and a 4 percent reduction in the probability of suffering from mild depression. 

The researchers also estimate that based on their data, it is likely that 1 million people have felt reductions in mental distress after being vaccinated.

Francisco Perez-Arce, co-author of the PLoS One study, said: “Getting the first dose of COVID-19 [vaccine] resulted in significant improvements in mental health, beyond improvements already achieved since mental distress peaked in the spring of 2020.”

The scientist at the Centre for Economic and Social Research did stress, however, that the results of the study should be interpreted as an impermanent impact of getting a first vaccine dose.

The overall contribution of vaccine uptake on improving mental health outcomes is potentially much larger, as it impacts not only those vaccinated but also the unvaccinated.

The study identified more than one possible outcome as to why receiving the first does of the COVID-19 may be so advantageous to those suffering from mental health issues.

“The effects we identify could arise from one of or a combination of mechanisms. Those recently vaccinated may become less worried about getting infected, they may become more active socially, or they may venture into different work opportunities,” the study explained.

According to the study, even unvaccinated people are able to benefit from the reduced prevalence rates in the population as it makes them less worried about their loved ones catching the virus. They also benefit from increased social and economic opportunities, as the vaccine rollout has resulted in more social and economic activity, the study said.

Perez-Aace also called for more research to be done in order to investigate the mechanisms through which the jab achieved such effects.

There are other variables that could be the cause of decreased rates in depression after receiving one jab. With all the uncertainty over the past 18 months, from widespread job losses to loneliness and shielding, vaccines have brought confidence and validity to those suffering most from the virus.

With less worry about coming into contact with the virus, those who are vaccinated may be more active socially, or try out new work opportunities, the researchers write.

Prior studies also reveal that isolation has been a major factor in people’s mental health during the pandemic, which is one reason the government and the have pushed hard to get children back in classrooms and those who have been shielding out and about.

Of course, this paper does not attempt to suggest vaccination is a panacea, or that getting more people to roll up their sleeves will provide them with the mental health support they need. The study’s authors convey that their findings should simply be understood as the “short-term direct effects of getting a first vaccine dose.”

With the fast increasing regularity of mental health pre-pandemic, the impact of the public health crisis on mental wellbeing has soared with national surveys taken at various points throughout the past 18 months pointing to woeful increases in mental health issues, often coinciding with case surges.

During summer 2020 roughly four in 10 of adults indicated they were struggling with mental health concerns or substance abuse. Up from about one in 10 adults prior to the pandemic.

Experts have warned since the pandemic began that it has been adding to the chronic stress of millions who were already disadvantaged prior to pandemic.

“As was the case prior to the pandemic, adults in poor general health (reflecting both physical and mental health) continue to report higher rates of anxiety and/or depression than adults in good general health,” a February Kaiser Family Foundation report warned.

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