How to deal with COVID-19 vaccine envy and guilt

Virus Outbreak Vaccine Access
Posted at 7:43 AM, Feb 19, 2021

There are some serious negative perceptions around COVID-19 vaccines, but there are also strong emotions around getting them and those who really want them.

It all boils down to there just isn't enough to go around yet.

“And so, don't get down on yourself for feeling resentful that your grandmother is getting it and you're not,” said Susan Whitbourne, Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Whitbourne is an expert in psychological and brain sciences. She says vaccine envy is real.

In addition to resentment, people may also be constantly checking on vaccine availability. Or they may feel hopeless.

Whitbourne says don't get down on yourself, get resourceful.

“But I would look for every option that you can find within reason, in order to try to secure one for yourself or this could be vicarious vaccine envy for somebody that you care about who is unable to get it, so it doesn't have to be about yourself, which helps reduce the selfishness aspect of the thing,” said Whitbourne.

Whitbourne also suggests helping others by sharing things like information on vaccine sign-ups. That works well for those who may be experiencing vaccine guilt, an emotion that may come after getting the shots.

Whitbourne, who is over 70 and has been vaccinated, advocated on Twitter for equity and for her state to expand eligibility to 65 and over, which they recently did.

“And you can create a focus on behalf of the other people that you think are deserving, whether you have gotten the vaccine or not. It's still important for people to get vaccinated,” said Whitbourne.

She also attributed a lot of anxiety and stress around vaccines to lack of planning, which frustrates people.