How Depression Can Cause Vaccine Refusal

April 16, 2021 Natasha Tracy

COVID-19 vaccine refusal could be caused by depression. I know there might not seem to be a link there, but I suspect there is. Depression could affect how a person feels about getting a vaccine for a number of reasons, and it may lead all the way up to vaccine refusal caused by depression.

How Could Depression Cause Vaccine Refusal?

Depression is a complicated many-headed beast, and while people often think about a person with depression crying constantly, that is far from the only effect depression can have. Depression also has symptoms like indecisiveness and feelings of worthlessness, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DMS-5). These two symptoms alone can affect whether a person chooses to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

For example, there is indecisiveness. This part of depression could affect vaccine refusal simply because the person can make the decision to get the vaccine. This is understandable. There is much information about vaccines out there, some reliable, and much not, that it's easy for anyone to get a clouded view. But if the person is suffering from depression, this cloudiness may result in a frozen feeling where it's just impossible to feel okay with the decision of getting the vaccine.

Then there are feelings of worthlessness. You do need to care about yourself and your worth to get a vaccine that can prevent your own suffering and possible death. If you truly feel worthless, you may not feel worthy of a vaccine. You may not feel worthy of not getting COVID-19. You may not feel worthy of not dying from COVID-19. Does that sound impossible? It isn't when you're suffering from severe depression, and your brain is constantly lying to you.

Finally, guilt is also highly associated with depression. Depression and guilt can lead to vaccine refusal if the person feels they are "taking a vaccine away from someone who deserves it more." This person might worry about feeling guilty if another person dies because that person should have received the vaccine over the person with depression.

And, of course, if you're too depressed to get out of bed, the chances are pretty good you're not getting a vaccine that day either.

Fighting Vaccine Refusal Caused by Depression

But we need to fight vaccine refusal due to depression. Some places even recognize how important vaccines are for some with mental illness by prioritizing vaccines for people with serious mental illnesses like bipolar disorder.1

Regardless as to whether you have been made a priority in your community or not, you need to fight the voices of depression that may persuade you not to get a COVID-19 vaccine. You can do this by:

  • Talking to loved ones that you trust about the vaccine. Find out why they are getting it and let that help make your decision.
  • Talking to a doctor about any concerns you have about the vaccine. Get the concerns out of your head and let a trusted doctor help you make the decision.
  • Talk to your therapist about getting a vaccine. Talk about not feeling "worthy" of a vaccine.
  • If you don't feel worthy of the vaccine, consider getting it for your loved ones. Even if you don't feel worthy of not getting sick or dying, your loved ones absolutely see you that way. They don't want to lose you to sickness, temporarily or permanently.
  • Talk to a health phone line (most places have a vaccine information line available) or even the National Lifeline (you do not need to be suicidal to call) about the things stopping you from getting the vaccine. They can offer you logic to combat your depressed thoughts.
  • Save up all your energy to get the vaccine -- it's more important than most of the things you're currently spending effort on.

And finally, consider that everyone in our society needs to get the COVID-19 vaccine for everyone else in our society. Even if your depression is convincing you that you don't need to protect yourself, you do need to protect your neighbor and their neighbor and their neighbor after that. You can look at the vaccine as something you get for you, and that's okay, or you can look at it as something you get for the protection of your loved ones, your coworkers and the community at large. This way of looking at it may defeat the depressive thoughts leading to your vaccine refusal.

What is motivating you to get the COVID-19 vaccine in spite of depression? We'd all love to know.


  1. Rethink Mental Illness, "COVID-19 Vaccine and People Living with Severe Mental Illness." February 2020.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2021, April 16). How Depression Can Cause Vaccine Refusal, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

September, 29 2021 at 1:07 pm

I’m 62, live in Canada and haven’t had my vaccine. One reason is my mental illness. My other reason is at the time I write this, about 40 nations haven’t administered one single shot. I’m unmarried, no children or grandchildren and few friends anymore.
So what makes me so noble and important that I need a shot over a young person or mother in a poor country with little future?

October, 1 2021 at 7:58 am

Hi Lauren,
I living in Canada too and I have had my vaccine. I can understand your point about 40 nations not having the vaccine, but you need to understand that you not getting it isn't going to help that. Moreover, you not getting it may hurt you -- yes -- but it also could hurt someone else. Getting vaccinated is something we do for everyone.
You are not "so noble and important." That's not the point. The point is that you're a person in a society and we're all trying to save lives together. If you are concerned about other countries getting the vaccine, perhaps you could take a look at Unicef's effort to vaccinate low-income countries:
- Natasha Tracy

April, 21 2021 at 3:37 pm

I thought of my grandchildren and my other thought was maybe the outcome of a reaction might be lucky to die after getting it . Blood clot would have been good for me .

April, 17 2021 at 11:31 pm

I am not into the pain and suffering of getting covid. I’d rather die quicker by way of getting a blood clot, if possible. And I’d pref not be responsible for passing covid on to others, if I should happen to get it!

April, 17 2021 at 11:24 pm

au contraire...
I am actually hoping I get the one that causes the blood clot, so I can die
At least it won’t be called a suicide!

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