Air Date: Week of December 8, 2000
Living On Earth’s Diane Toomey reports that stress may diminish the effectiveness of certain vaccines.
TOOMEY: We know that stress can make us sick. Now it appears that stress can even affect our immune system so much that vaccines don't work. Scientists gave the pneumonia vaccination to two groups of people. One group was in the high-stress position of taking care of spouses suffering from dementia. The other group consisted of former caregivers. Following the vaccination, researchers measured blood levels of the antibodies that fend off the pneumonia bacteria. Both groups showed a strong initial response to the vaccine, but after six months the immune response of the highly-stressed group dropped off 30 percent. But the group of former caregivers held steady. A few years ago, similar research showed stress produced an immediate weakening of response to the flu vaccine. So researchers in this study advise people to consider putting off vaccinations until they're not so stressed out. That's this week's health update. I'm Diane Toomey.
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