CDC officials say some vaccine reactions are caused by anxiety, not the shot

Feeling crummy after your COVID-19 vaccination? It could be your mind messing with you.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says dozens of people who reported reactions in five states had those because of an anxiety condition triggered by getting a shot of any sort.

The report came after an investigation into a number of incidents over three days in clinics in California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, and North Carolina. In total, 64 people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine either fainted or reported dizziness. Some grew nauseated or vomited, and a few had racing hearts, chest pain, or other symptoms.

None reported serious illness.

After the investigation, roughly one-quarter of the people affected said they had experienced similar reactions when getting other shots. In essence, the body shows a physical response to psychological stress—and sometimes people seeing someone have a reaction, such as fainting, then have a reaction of their own.

Because it was the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, though, officials wanted to be sure. The CDC briefly recommended pausing distribution of that drug after learning of dangerous blood clots that occurred in six women in the days after vaccination. The pause was lifted 10 days after it was issued, and use of the vaccine has resumed.

The J&J jab is a one-shot vaccine, rather than the two required by Pfizer and Moderna, which could make it more appealing to people who are “more highly predisposed to anxiety-related events,” the CDC report said.

All COVID-19 vaccines carry the risk of some side effects, with the most common being soreness at the injection site and mild flu-like symptoms, including chills and fatigue. They generally pass within a day or two.

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