Pyschological denominators of pandemic fatigue

The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine has fueled hopes of a return to normal. But it has also created a “false sense of security” which has led to a relaxation of other prevention measures, experts note. A year later, optimism gave way to growing pandemic fatigue. Overview of the psychosocial repercussions of vaccination.

At the start of the pandemic, in March 2020, the world turned to scientists in hopes they could design a vaccine as quickly as possible. It was seen as a “magic potion”, illustrates Kim Lavoie, professor in the Department of Psychology at UQAM and holder of the Canada Health Research Chair, who has been interested in behaviors related to COVID-19 with the iCARE study.

“When the vaccine became available, it was a great psychological relief for most people,” she notes.

This “hope” was fueled by the feeling of “control” that it gave back to the population, adds Geneviève Beaulieu-Pelletier, psychologist and associate professor at UQAM. “In all this uncertainty that we had lived for a year, finally there was something to relate to. Hope [de venir à bout de la pandémie] was becoming concrete. “

However, it did not go as we would have liked. The variants have multiplied and, a few days before Christmas, the number of new cases identified explodes once again, with a daily toll reaching new heights in Quebec.

“With the arrival of variants – I will say it in good Quebecois – we caught a nasty one!” »Continues the psychologist.

The increase in cases is explained in part by the fact that since being doubly vaccinated, people have developed a “false sense of security” and less follow other preventive measures such as hand washing, distancing and wearing. mask, says researcher Kim Lavoie.

“People are like, ‘I’m vaccinated, I don’t have to do everything else anymore.’ And we drop our guards. “

Among vaccinated Canadians, the researcher observed a 20% decrease in the rate of adherence to health measures between March and June 2021. This decrease is even more marked among the unvaccinated.

Psychological wear and tear also played a role in this slackening, believes Geneviève Beaulieu-Pelletier. “The main symptom that emerges from pandemic fatigue is a lack of motivation to follow instructions. “

She also finds that some are beginning to be “less comfortable” in asserting themselves to enforce the instructions of their loved ones.


For Roxane de la Sablonnière, professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Montreal, “one of the important components for people to adhere to health measures is the perception of consistency”. And it is not always there. “Right now, there are a lot of vaccinated people catching COVID. We must explain why, and the advantages of having the vaccine despite that. When people are in the understanding rather than in the questioning, it becomes easier to adapt. “

The announcement of an easing of health measures last November by the Legault government also sent the wrong signal to the population, estimates Kim Lavoie. “The health restrictions give the signal on the state of the situation, so if we relax on this plan, it gives people the impression that everything is fine. “

And these “false hopes” sent by the government have repercussions on the morale of the troops, warns Geneviève Beaulieu-Pelletier, giving the example of the instructions for Christmas which have just been revised by the Legault government.

“People needed to know, to plan, but when you are not sure enough, it is better to wait [avant d’annoncer un assouplissement des règles], because it gives a major backlash, ”she says. So when the government backs down after announcing good news, the reactions are stronger. “Feeding hope and then removing it is not the way to go psychologically speaking,” said the psychologist, who would like to see a mental health specialist at the expert table during Prime Minister Legault’s press conferences.


Another psychosocial impact of vaccination is the exacerbation of tensions in society, notes Christine Grou, president of the Ordre des psychologues du Québec. “If there is one thing that has divided people, it is the respect and interpretation of sanitary measures. It shattered friendships and families. “

According to her, “we have all become a little radicalized in our positions” since the start of the pandemic, in particular because of pandemic fatigue, which causes “a crumbling of our capacities to think, to reason and to take a step back” .

“Psychologically, it has led to a greater intolerance of the diversity of opinions that are different from ours. “

However, Quebecers “shot themselves in the foot” by pointing the finger at the unvaccinated and by fueling this polarization, believes Geneviève Beaulieu-Pelletier. Rather, we should have tried to understand the reasons why some people refuse to be vaccinated. She gives the example of someone who suffers from anxiety and who uses denial as a strategy for emotional regulation.

“We must try to understand the psychological effects behind the refusal of vaccination. Not to encourage them not to be vaccinated, far from it, but the better we will understand, the more we will be able to find other ways of managing this crisis. It is a little late in the process, because beliefs have crystallized, but I think we can learn from this crisis for the next time. “

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