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CDC: Anxiety caused last month's fainting at vaccination sites, here's how vaccine providers are curbing more cases

A CDC report found fainting, dizzy spells at five mass vaccination sites in April were anxiety-related. Vaccine providers discuss how they're preventing more.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report notes the importance that vaccine providers monitor people for anxiety responses in addition to allergic responses following COVID-19 shots. The CDC says the monitoring should happen in the 15 minutes after vaccination.

The report concluded that after analyzing dozens of fainting events following the administration of the Johnson and Johnson shot earlier this spring.

According to that report, five mass vaccination sites reported 64 anxiety-related events, including 17 events of fainting, after vaccine administration. Four of those sites paused out of precaution while the matter was investigated.

While the fainting after J&J was reported at higher rates than with the flu vaccination, the CDC states that fainting can be a normal reaction with any shot and largely has more to do with the person than the vaccine.

RELATED: CDC finds no safety issues following limited reactions at Wake County COVID-19 vaccine event

The CDC said while the fainting cases in question followed J&J shots, coincidence is likely. It notes that the reports came after eligibility expanded into younger groups, which are more likely to have fainting reactions. It also states that the single-shot J&J vaccine is more likely to appeal to people who are scared of needles. The CDC says there is also a heightened general anxiety about the pandemic.

Furthermore, the CDC states "an anxiety-related event witnessed by others on-site... might provoke additional anxiety-induced episodes."

Dr. David Wohl, a professor of medicine with UNC Health, said the system adjusted screening protocols following those initial reports and vaccine administrators now try to pinpoint people with histories of fainting during blood drawing or shots.

"They go to a special area; we recline them. It's almost like a first-class lounge. They are vaccinated in the chair and observed in the chair," Wohl said. "I think it is a lot of anxiety, which I understand, but I don't think the fainting instance is due to any ingredients in one vaccine versus another," Wohl said.

The CDC recommends the following measures to prevent fainting:

  • Have a beverage or snack before getting your vaccine
  • Sit or lie down after you receive your vaccine
  • Breathe slowly and deeply before getting the vaccine and think of something relaxing