It is well-known within the medical community that during mass inoculation campaigns, you can expect to see a relatively small number of individual anxiety reactions in nervous patients. Common symptoms include fainting, dizziness, nausea, and breathlessness. What is less known is the likelihood of a collective anxiety event. Most commonly referred to as mass psychogenic illness, outbreaks during immunization campaigns are well-known. Since 1992, there have been no less than 12 major episodes that have been written up in medical journals.

If an event were to occur, the media needs to react with caution and avoid sensational headlines and reporting. This could prove to be challenging because the news media is driven by a business model that thrives on clicks and views. If it bleeds, it leads. Another problem facing authorities will be the historical reaction to similar outbreaks, which are usually met with anger and disbelief. In today’s social media age, a single psychogenic outbreak could quickly undermine global confidence in the safety of different COVID-19 vaccines.

Outbreaks of mass psychogenic illness are often dramatic and can have lasting ramifications.