Vaccine side effect or vax anxiety? What you need to know

04 November 2021 - 06:42
Sahpra says some adverse events after immunisation can be caused by anxiety. File Picture.
Sahpra says some adverse events after immunisation can be caused by anxiety. File Picture.
Image: Esa Alexander

Getting vaccinated for Covid-19 can cause anxiety which can be incorrectly misinterpreted as a side effect or a reaction to the vaccine.

The SA Health Product Regulatory Authority (Sahpra), a body responsible for regulating the use of all medicines in SA, investigates reported adverse events after vaccination.

The regulator categorises them into five groups which are:

  • Vaccine product-related reaction
  • Vaccine quality defect-related reaction
  • Immunisation error-related reaction
  • Immunisation anxiety-related reaction
  • Coincidental event 

The regulator said immunisation anxiety-related reactions can cause hyperventilation among vaccinated individuals. 

It said not all suspected adverse events, whether minor or serious, are caused by the vaccine as some may be coincidental to the vaccination.

“The adverse event may be an unfavourable or unintended sign, abnormal laboratory finding, symptom or disease. Most adverse events for Covid-19 vaccines are non-serious and mild and resolve within the first two to three days after vaccination,” said the regulator. 

The Centres for Disease Control (CDC) in the US said anxiety-related reactions include fainting, chest pains and rapid breathing and heart rate. It recommends post-vaccination assessment vaccination sites for at least 15 minutes. 

Anxiety might result from a fear of needles or the stresses brought about by the global pandemic.

“The stress of an ongoing pandemic might also increase anxiety surrounding Covid-19 vaccination. In addition, in mass vaccination situations, an anxiety-related event witnessed by others on-site or reported through media coverage might provoke additional anxiety-induced episodes,” it said.