Windmills of your mind: viral Covid jab ‘hack’ placebo effect at best, say doctors

·2 min read

A vaccine “hack” rumoured to alleviate any unpleasant side-effects from the Covid vaccination, which involves swinging your arm like a windmill, has gone viral on TikTok.

But medical experts have warned that the only thing those standing outside vaccination centres flailing their arms in the air will lose will be their dignity.

“It’s harmless, looks very silly and won’t do anything. The sore arm does not actually happen immediately as the immune response has not yet happened, and not everyone gets it either,” said Beate Kampmann, professor of paediatric infection and immunity and director of the Vaccine Centre at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

“Let people wave their arms if it makes anyone feel better – it really is a tiny quick injection on the day. We give vaccines to children all the time and they are just fine.” she added.

Adam Finn, professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol and an honorary consultant at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, agreed: “I doubt it is harmful – or helpful beyond any placebo effect, which could be substantial,” he said.

A spokesperson for AstraZeneca said they were “loth to rule anything out” in terms of whether the dance might reduce post-jab arm-ache but they were “certainly not aware of it being helpful”. Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson both said there was not sufficient scientific evidence for them to be able to comment.

Prof Saad Shakir, director of the Drug Safety Research Unit, questioned why the young people shown in the videos didn’t just take a paracetamol if their arms hurt. But he also said as it would only take a few weeks at most to do a randomised controlled trial, he didn’t see why that shouldn’t be done.

But Azeem Majeed, professor of primary care and public health, and head of the Department of Primary Care & Public Health at Imperial College London, said that the trend might have an unexpected positive outcome: “If it raises awareness of the jab and makes it seem like a joyful, playful thing, then that’s a very good outcome to the dance,” he said.

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