NEW YORK (The Associated Press) – US health officials have concluded that anxiety – not a problem with shots – has caused the fainting, dizziness and other short-term reactions in dozens of people at coronavirus vaccine clinics in five states.
Experts say the clusters detailed Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are an example of a phenomenon dated for decades from a variety of different vaccines. Basically, some people become so terrified of the injection that their anxiety triggers a physical reaction.
“We knew we were going to see this,” said Dr. Noni MacDonald, a Canadian researcher who studied similar incidents as mass COVID-19 vaccination clinics were set up around the world.
The CDC authors said the reports came in more than three days, April 7-9, from clinics in California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa and North Carolina. The investigation was based on interviews and reports of clinic staff.
Many of the 64 people either fainted or dizzy. Some developed nausea or vomiting, and a few had heart racing, chest pain, or other symptoms. No one became seriously ill.
They all received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and four of the five clinics temporarily closed while officials tried to find out what was happening. Health officials said at the time that they had no reason to suspect a problem with the vaccine itself.
Of the three COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States, only J&J vaccines require one dose. The CDC report said this may make it more attractive to people who feel nervous about shots and may leave them “more vulnerable to anxiety-related events.”
One of the study’s authors, Dr. Tom Shimabukuru, who leads the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 vaccine safety monitoring work, noted that some sites have announced that they were providing J&J footage.
The CDC found that about a quarter of people who report side effects have similar things that happen after their previous vaccinations.
Post-shot reactions differ from a very rare type of side effect that resulted in a temporary discontinuation of administration of the J&J vaccine. At least 17 vaccine recipients developed an uncommon type of blood clot that developed in unusual locations, such as the veins that drain blood from the brain, along with abnormally low levels of platelets that form clots.
Other types of side effects from Coronavirus vaccines are not unusual. Another CDC report released Friday looked at side effects reported by more than 300,000 J&J vaccine recipients. More than half said they experienced arm pain, fatigue, or a headache. A third of them reported a fever or chills, and about a fifth said they had nausea.
But the gatherings in the five clinics are believed to be linked to stress.
MacDonald, a professor of pediatrics at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, said studies have indicated 10% to 15% of adults have a fear of injections.
Many of the people with stress-related symptoms are younger, and previous groups of other shots have involved schoolchildren. Some suffer from hyperventilation, some experience nausea, and some suffer from headaches. She said some have experienced neurological symptoms that initially seem more severe.
One group that MacDonald reviewed included 14 US military reservists who developed symptoms after receiving flu vaccines in 2009. The first of them was a 23-year-old man who reported a day after a day of progressive weakness in his arms and legs but had made a full recovery.
“Everyone thinks these are (only) young teenage girls,” MacDonald said. “Well, it’s not like that.”
It can start with one person fainting which can trigger a chain reaction of symptoms in anxious people who see or hear about that first person. These days, people also interact with the things they read or see in Facebook posts or on other sites.
Some doctors have referred to this phenomenon as a form of mass hysteria, but MacDonald rejected the term.
“These people aren’t crazy,” she said, but they do suffer real physical responses to psychological stress.
The Associated Press’s Department of Health and Science is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Division of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content.
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