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The CDC says some vaccine reactions are caused by anxiety



NEW YORK (AP) – It is anxiety – not the problem with gunshots – that causes fainting, dizziness and other short-term reactions in dozens of people at coronavirus vaccine clinics in five countries, US health officials have concluded.

Experts say the clusters, described in detail on Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are an example of a phenomenon that has been chronicled for decades by many different vaccines. In general, some people are so frightened by injections that their anxiety stimulates a physical reaction.

“We knew we would see this because mass clinics for COVID-1

9 vaccines were set up around the world,” said Dr. Noni MacDonald, a Canadian researcher who has studied similar incidents.

The CDC authors say the reports arrived in three days, from April 7 to 9, from clinics in California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa and North Carolina. The investigation is based on interviews with clinic staff and reports from them.

Many of the 64 affected either fainted or reported dizziness. Some had nausea or vomiting, and some had heart palpitations, chest pain, or other symptoms. No one got seriously ill.

A member of the Brazilian army is preparing an AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine.  (Photo by DOUGLAS MAGNO / AFP via Getty Images)


DOUGLAS MAGNO via Getty Images

A member of the Brazilian army is preparing an AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine. (Photo by DOUGLAS MAGNO / AFP via Getty Images)

All received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and four of the five clinics were temporarily closed while staff tried to find out what was happening. At the time, health officials said they had no reason to suspect a problem with the vaccine itself.

Of the three COVID-19 vaccines approved in the United States, only J&J requires only one dose. This probably makes it more attractive to people who are nervous about the shots and may leave them “more prone to anxiety events,” the CDC report said.

Some of the advertised sites are taking pictures of J&J, said Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, who oversees the CDC’s work to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines and is one of the study’s authors.

The CDC found that about a quarter of people who reported side effects had had similar things happen after past vaccinations.

Reactions after the shot differ from a very rare type of side effect, which led to a pause in the administration of the J&J vaccine. At least 17 vaccine recipients have developed an unusual type of blood clot that has developed in unusual places, such as 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 uncommon. Another CDC report released on Friday looked at the side effects reported by more than 300,000 J&J vaccine recipients. More than half said they had a sore arm, fatigue or a headache. A third reports a fever or chills, and about a fifth says they feel sick.

But clusters in the five clinics are thought to be stress-related.

MacDonald, a professor of pediatrics at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, said studies show that 10% to 15% of adults are afraid of injections.

A health worker vaccinated a man on April 30, 2021 at the Pasadena Public Library in Pasadena, Texas.  (Photo by CECILE


CECILE CLOCHERET via Getty Images

A health worker vaccinated a man on April 30, 2021 at the Pasadena Public Library in Pasadena, Texas. (Photo by CECILE CLOCHERET / AFP via Getty Images)

Many people who experience stress-related symptoms are younger, and previous clusters of other photos include students at school. Some are hyperventilating, others are nauseous, others report headaches. And some had more severe neurological symptoms at first, she said.

A cluster reviewed by MacDonald involved 14 U.S. military reservists who developed symptoms after receiving flu vaccines in 2009. The first was a 23-year-old man who reported progressive weakness in his arms and legs a day later. but fully recovered.

“Everyone thinks it’s (just) young teenagers who are experiencing this,” McDonald said. “Well, it’s not.”

It can start with a person’s seizure, which can cause a chain reaction of symptoms in anxious people who see or hear about that first person. Nowadays, people also react to things they read or watch in posts on Facebook or other sites.

Some doctors refer to the phenomenon as a form of mass hysteria, but MacDonald rejects the term.

“These people are not crazy, but rather experiencing real physical reactions to psychological stress,” she said.

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The Associated Press’s Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


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