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COVID-19 Vaccine Guilt

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COVID-19 Vaccine Guilt

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Reports have suggested that some people are experiencing guilt associated with getting the COVID vaccine. This article explains this in detail.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. C. Elanchezhian

Published At June 17, 2021
Reviewed AtJanuary 19, 2023


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought so many changes in people's regular lives. All have been waiting to get back to their normal life, and this has been initiated with the invention of the “COVID Vaccines.” There are so many brands of vaccines, so many regulations given by each country and organization. They are commercially available and a large number of people are getting vaccinated. Getting the vaccine gives relief, but sometimes some people may have guilt regarding the availability of vaccines to some people and not to others.

Why Can There Be Guilt Associated With Getting COVID Vaccine?

Humans are made with feelings of empathy, fairness, and equity. The COVID vaccine has brought some sort of freedom after one year of grief, loneliness, and loss. But the thought that some can get it whereas others cannot can bring some sort of guilt.

Studies showed that COVID-19 vaccine guilt developed in those who received the vaccine or were eligible to get it shortly. It was mentioned as a survivor’s guilt by many doctors. It was reported that people who got vaccinated showed a mix of feelings, starting from excitement to guilt. The causes were attributed to a shortage of vaccines, different distribution regulations in different areas, etc. Apart from these, some people came forward and said that they did not feel like they deserved this vaccine compared to others who actually required the medicine.

What Is Guilt and Is It Normal?

Guilt is one of the normal human emotions which can be described as a sense of any responsibility related to or regret of any action taken. People surely do not like to feel guilty about something, but it has to be understood that it is normal to feel so. Guilt is an indication that they actually care.

What Can Guilt Do?

Guilt can do one of the following:

  1. It can act as a moral pendulum between right and wrong.

  2. It can act as a restriction from doing anything negative.

  3. It can surely help all to learn from their mistakes.

Are There Any Side Effects of Guilt?

Yes, when there is an excessive or unwanted feeling of guilt, it can lead to some side effects. Mainly it can affect mental health. The mental health side-effects are as follows:

  • Stress.

  • Anxiety.

  • Decreased self-esteem.

  • Depression.

  • Engage in certain behaviors which are associated with fear or shame.

There can be certain other side effects that may be related to systemic effects. They are as follows:

  • Decreased sleep or insomnia.

  • Headaches.

  • Pain in the stomach.

  • Decreased appetite.

  • Rapid heart rate.

  • Shallow breathing or rapid heart rate, causing chest pain.

Studies have reported that when the body comes under stressful situations, certain hormones are released, which can help in overcoming stress but also cause some physical symptoms. Psychotherapists also say that guilt can range from normal to pathological levels, and hence, professional help is required to assess and manage it. If the pathological guilt is not managed, it can cause extreme anxiety, depression, insomnia, irritation, and in severe cases, paranoia can happen.

How Can Guilt Be Managed?

People can manage guilt, but a reality check is necessary before beginning it. They are as follows:

1. The COVID-19 Pandemic Cannot Be Predicted:

The pandemic is unpredictable. It can affect any age, gender, etc. A high-risk individual does not mean that he will contract the infection and others will not. Hence, the vaccine is justified in all. Also, vaccines are now made available to all, and there is no point in developing a pang of guilt for being vaccinated.

2. By Taking the Vaccine a Person Is Doing Good to Others Too:

Getting a vaccine is not only going to help a person taking it but others too. Those getting vaccinated are part of developing herd immunity. Herd immunity occurs when 70 to 90 % of people are immune, be it through vaccination, naturally getting infected, or already developed immunity.

3. Be Compassionate to Oneself:

It is always better to have some compassion towards oneself. Everyone has a right to protect themselves.

4. Talk to Someone Trustworthy:

If a person feels guilty even after doing all the above things, communication is the key. He should communicate with others about how he feels. This will help him to vent out the guilt.

People can try doing the following things to overcome vaccine guilt:

1. Shift and Reframe - When a person notice or have a feeling of guilt about the vaccine,he should recognize it and acknowledge it.If a person feels ‘why him,’ he should console himself by thinking that he is helping others to prevent this infection.

2. Be Positive - People should surround themselves with positive thoughts and people. They can stick some positive notes in the house about getting vaccinated.

3. Come Forward and Take Professional Help - If a person has been experiencing guilt for more than two weeks, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional.


Guilt is a normal human emotion and getting vaccinated is not only a person’s right but also his duty. It is always better to ask for professional help if one cannot get out of guilt on their own. In this digital world, specialists can be consulted online on medical platforms to know more about the vaccine and to manage the guilt associated with it.

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Dr. C. Elanchezhian
Dr. C. Elanchezhian

General Medicine


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