Friday, September 23rd
Expectations, Side-Effects and Nocebo Effects During the Pandemic
Diverse information about COVID-19 vaccine side-effects (e.g., pain at injection site, headache) has spread rapidly through social communication. As previous research suggest that side-effects can be exacerbated by negative expectations, we tested if pre-vaccination social communication about vaccine side-effects predicts post-vaccination side-effect experience. We further assessed if personal expectations and worry mediate the relationships between social communication and self-effect experience. In a prospective longitudinal online survey (N=551), COVID-19 vaccine side-effect information from three sources, social media posts, news reports, and first-hand accounts from personal acquaintances, as well as side-effect expectations and worry, were self-reported pre-vaccination. Side-effect experience was self-reported post-vaccination. The number of pre-vaccination social media post views and impressions of severity conveyed from personal acquaintances significantly predicted an increase in pre-vaccination side-effect expectations as well as post-vaccination side-effects. Moreover, pre-vaccination side-effect expectations, but not worry, fully mediated the relationship between both sources of social communication and experienced side-effects. This study identified links between social communication channels and COVID-19 vaccination side-effects and suggest that modifying side-effect expectations from these channels may change the COVID-19 vaccination experience.