A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that some reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine, including fainting, dizziness and nausea, were due to anxiety – not the shots themselves.
The report, released Friday, looks at groups of events reported to the CDC by dozens of people who received a single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine at five mass vaccination sites in early April, before federal health agencies called for a temporary break in the photo after six people in the United States have developed a rare blood clot disease.
Of the 8,624 people who received the J&J dose from April 7 to 9 at the five sites, 64 had anxiety-related reactions, none of which were considered serious, the CDC said. Slightly more than half report dizziness or vertigo. Excessive sweating was the next most common symptom, followed by fainting, nausea or vomiting, and hypotension.
The majority ̵
Most of the symptoms resolved within 15 minutes with attention, such as food and hydration or lying down, while 20% of patients were hospitalized for further evaluation. Four of the sites temporarily stopped vaccinations to investigate the reactions.
“Increased awareness of anxiety-related events after vaccination will enable vaccination providers to make an informed decision to continue vaccination,” the report said.
The report looks at anxiety-related reactions only after receiving the J&J vaccine, but notes that “anxiety-related events can occur after each vaccination.”
When reviewing seizures after receiving the J&J vaccine, reported in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System database from March 2 to April 12, the CDC found that there were 8.2 episodes per 100,000 doses. In comparison, the reported incidence of seizures after receiving the flu vaccine during the 2019-2020 flu season is only 0.05 episodes per 100,000 doses, he found.
For Dr. Tara Sell, a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins Health Security Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who studies vaccine risk communication, this may mean that the COVID-19 vaccine can lead to more people with an unfavorable injection than the flu vaccine.
“You have a population of people who may already be worried about getting vaccines here where they would just miss it for a flu vaccine,” Sell told ABC News.
People may also be nervous about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine because it is new or feel overwhelmed by the impact of the pandemic, she said.
“The flu vaccine is very normal, people are very familiar with it, so it doesn’t look like this big, important thing,” she said.
Sell said the report showed how closely vaccination against COVID-19 was monitored for safety.
“It happened in early April and we are not in May and we have a pretty clear answer to what is happening here,” she said. “I think that’s good.”
Reduce anxiety from the vaccine
For people who may be anxious to take pictures, practicing deep breathing and relaxation exercises before getting vaccinated can be “extremely helpful,” Dr. Jeffrey Geller, president of the American Psychiatric Association, told ABC News. association.
Limiting caffeine intake, maintaining hydration, eating well, and “self-care” can also help people who are struggling with anxiety, Gero said.
Once you arrive at the place, especially at the mass vaccination site, it may be helpful to distract yourself, Gero said, such as listening to music while waiting in line.
People may also want to notify the medical team if they are worried, Geller said.
“You shouldn’t keep it to yourself,” he added. “They can be very accommodating.”
While an injection is taking place, do not look, close your eyes and “use images to imagine that you are somewhere else,” Geller said.
If these practices are not enough, there are treatments that can help people deal with their anxiety or if they are afraid of vaccinations, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or exposure therapy, Geller said.
“As many people as possible should receive the COVID injection, and in this situation with COVID, there is no alternative,” he said. “It’s not like the flu when you have a nasal alternative. For COVID, you either get the shot or you don’t get the shot.”
Olivia Davis, a fourth-year student at Wisconsin Medical College who will begin her stay at Massachusetts General Hospital this summer, is a member of the medical unit of ABC News.