Anxiety Surrounding COVID-19 Vaccine
By: Megan Maurer, N.P.
There are many words to describe the past year: difficult, scary, overwhelming, unprecedented. And for many, those feelings represent our new normal. As vaccines become more widely available to University employees, many are grappling with the disruption to their new normal, and its impact to the bubble they created to survive the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a crushing fear of the unknown: pervasive questions about the virus itself, how it spread, how to protect ourselves and love ones. Now with the vaccine a reality, a new set of unknowns plagues our minds. Was it tested rigorously enough? Is it safe? What will happen after I get it?
There is so much information – factual and fictional – that surround the vaccine. This can cause confusion, division, and an overall decrease in motivation to have open conversations about the benefits versus the risk factors.
One way to help cope with the emotional exhaustion and fear around vaccines is to remember that these are normal feelings about an abnormal situation. It’s been an emotionally exhausting year and we have adapted to the new normal; it’s natural to worry about this new phase.
The decision to receive a vaccine can be an emotionally-charged one. Vaccines are often politicized which causes polarized conversations and intense feelings of varying opinions. The relationship between emotions and health behaviors is real and complicated. There are certain steps you can take to help make your decision process easier.
First, address and communicate your concerns to your trusted health care providers. Share your fears and reluctancies with them. Only then can communication and recommendation be tailored to your unique experience as opposed to a "one size fits all" approach and message. Second, consider addressing aspects the vaccine can have on a broader community, which might further help enable family connections and as a result, create a sense of hope and reduce feelings of isolation. By having those conversations, you can learn evidence-based facts around the vaccine, and become more self-assured with your decision.
The more providers and the community talk about the vaccine, be it positively or negatively, the more normalized this topic becomes which in turn, reduces fear of the unknown.
One thing we can focus on for the future is being mindful with our emotions, and sometimes how difficult they are to regulate and/or control. This pandemic has impacted everyone – globally and across all demographics. We can use this time to possibly make a meaningful change in how to handle situational stressors as well as communicate with others.
The CDC has many resources to answer questions, outside from talking with your own medical provider. It discusses safety requirements, how many doses are needed, future vaccines currently being studied, and any potential side affects you may experience and why.
Behavioral Health Partners is brought to you by Well-U, offering eligible individuals mental health services for stress, anxiety, and depression. Our team of mental health professionals can accurately assess your symptoms and make recommendations for treatment. To schedule an intake appointment, give us a call at (585) 276-6900.
Chou, W.S., & Budenz, A. (2020). Considering Emotion in COVID-19 Vaccine Communications: Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy and Fostering Vaccine Confidence. Health Communications, 35(14), 1718-1722. doi:10.1080/10410236.2020.1838096
Venuleo, C., Gelo, C.G.O., Slvatore, S. (2020). Fear, affective semiosis, and management of the pandemic crisis: COVID-19 as semiotic vaccine? Clinical Neuropsychiatry, 17(2), 117-130
COVID-19 Vaccines (2020). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html
Keith Stein |