Study: Thoughts can impact vaccine efficacy

A patient's thoughts and feelings play a big role in determining just how effective their annual flu shot can be, says a new study from the University of Wisconsin. In the study, researchers divided young women into two camps: one group that felt they were living up to their goals and satisfied with their lives and another group that wasn't. That first group with poor self-esteem demonstrated a significantly weaker response to their flu shot--delivered during the flu season--with lower levels of immunoglobulin M antibodies.

It would be next to impossible for physicians to try to take into account a person's outlook when they're given a vaccine, says lead researcher Christopher Coe. But it would be wise if developers took that into account.

"Many studies have now documented that stress and depression can reduce both cellular and humoral immunity in normal, healthy adults," notes psychology professor Christopher Coe in an e-mailed response to FierceVaccines. "Our paper was one of many reports confirming this fact. Among the types of immune responses that can be demonstrably impacted are: number and type of leukocytes in circulation, proliferative responses, natural killer cell lysis, and antibody responses to immunization. Conversely, at the same time, one can also see in the same stressed individual, a stimulation of pro-inflammatory responses, often with increased levels of inflammatory cytokines, such as IL-6. So it is reasonable to state that depressed individuals may need a more 'potent' antigenic stimulus to elicit the same level of antibody response."

"What this is saying is that the flu can take advantage of certain people more than others, especially if you're anxious and depressed, which in part is how you look at the world," adds Coe. "And further than that, the vaccine is something that we give to people and assume it has equal benefit, but it doesn't have equal benefit."

- read the article from the Journal-Sentinel