Friday, September 23rd
1:30pm-3:00pm EDT


Topical Workshop




715 A

Nocebo Effects in the Covid-19 Area How Does Information About Side-Effects Influence Actual Side-Effects and How can we Mitigate These Effects? Findings Across Three Continents

It is well-know that information about side-effects may lead to side-effects. Yet, less is known about the general public’s knowledge of this phenomenon and how that may decrease or increase the negative effects. The pandemic has allowed for a detailed and world-wide comparisons of how expectations of side effects influence actual side effects following COVID-19 and Influenza vaccines, highlighting cultural differences and psycho-neuro-biological interactions. Various strategies to mitigate the negative effects of side-effect information have started to emerge, which has important implications for patients, clinicians, and health authorities. In this panel workshop, Lene Vase will present a recent survey across US and Europe specifying the general public’s understanding of how communication with health care professionals may influence side-effects - illustrating important cultural differences in people’s preference for how information concerning side-effects should be presented. Andrew Geers will show that expectations of side-effects towards COVID-19 and Influenza vaccines may influence actual side-effects across US, Europe and New Zealand and illustrate how this phenomenon relates to the psycho-neuro-biological findings on nocebo effects in general. Keith Petrie will provide an overview of the multiple factors that may influence side-effect development and discuss novel ways of mitigating these effects in ethical appropriate ways.


1:30pm EDT3:00pm EDT

Expectations, Side-Effects and Nocebo Effects During the Pandemic

Tracks: Placebo
Categories: Topical Workshop

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.

1:30pm EDT3:00pm EDT

How Can We Mitigate the Negative Effects of Information about Side-Effects?

Tracks: Placebo
Categories: Topical Workshop
Presented By: Keith Petrie

Information about side effects can create negative expectations in patients that cause a nocebo effect. This negatively impacts on treatment adherence, well-being and health care utilization.  Research has begun to examine how to reduce this nocebo response. One method is by framing information to balance the presentation of adverse effects with the expected benefits from the treatment. Another approach we have tested is to give patients information about the nocebo effect itself and how it works. This involves an explanation about how discussing side effects can by itself cause people to experience symptoms. We have found that this method can reduce the nocebo effect following expectations of symptoms from an environmental stimulus and in participants taking a medicine, compared to standard information control groups. Another important factor is media reporting of side effects. Research has shown television and newspaper reports can increase side effect reporting and intensify somatic experiences. These cases have highlighted the need for media guidelines to reduce the social transmission of nocebo effects.      

1:30pm EDT3:00pm EDT

How Do People Prefer to be Informed about Side-Effects Across US and Europe?

Tracks: Placebo
Categories: Topical Workshop
Presented By: Lene Vase

Dr. Vase will give an overview of nocebo responses that arise from information about side-effects and for the first time present an in-depth survey showing how the public in the US and Europe prefer to be informed about side-effects. She will illustrate how peoples a prior knowledge of nocebo effects influences their beliefs and expectations of side-effects and she will highlight cultural similarities and differences in response to ethical dilemmas concerning side-effect information. Finally, she will illustrate how these findings have implications for patients, clinicians, regulatory agencies and health authorities.


Lene Vase

Aarhus University

Professor Andrew Geers

Professor of Psychology
University of Toledo

Keith Petrie

Professor of Health Psychology
The University of Auckland, New Zealand