The claim: A nurse fainted after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine
This week, frontline health care workers became the first recipients of the coronavirus vaccine in the United States. Some received the shot on television and spoke to reporters about their experience, emphasizing the necessity and safety of the vaccine.
Video clips of a nurse who fainted about 15 minutes after she received the vaccine have spread rapidly online, some accompanied by claims that the reaction is proof the vaccine isn’t safe.
“I’m sorry, I’m feeling really dizzy,” the nurse remarks, midway through speaking with the press. She then stumbles and faints into the arms of a nearby doctor. The nurse would later explain her reaction had nothing to do with the vaccine itself.
Erin Marie Olszewski posted a clip from WRCB Channel 3 Eyewitness News on Facebook.
“Watch this nurse pass out after receiving the COVID vaccine. It’s so safe though, right?” Olszewski wrote. “Why do people continue to follow these rabid dictators?”
Olszewski told USA TODAY that because “correlation does not imply causation,” it is impossible to know if the vaccine caused the nurse to faint.
“How can you say beyond a reasonable doubt that the vaccine didn’t cause this?” she wrote.
Tina Justine posted a similar clip of the nurse from WTVC-TV NewsChannel 9.
“WTF!!! Nurse receives a COVID-19 vaccine, proceeds to tells media how awesome it is, and THEN PASSES OUT!!” she wrote.
Justine has not responded to requests from USA TODAY for comment.
The nurse fainted after the shot due to an underlying health condition
It’s true that Tiffany Dover — a nurse manager from Catholic Health Initiatives Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee — fainted shortly after she received the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday.
But the incident was not indicative of any safety concerns with the vaccine.
Dover explained that she has an underlying health condition that causes her to faint when she experiences pain.
“I had a syncopal episode. I have a history of having an overactive vagal response, and so with that if I have pain from anything — hangnail or if I stub my toe — I can just pass out,” Dover told WRCB.
In another clip, she said she has “passed out probably six times in the past six weeks.”
“It’s common for me,” she added.
What is a vagal response?
The vagal response is an automatic response that occurs when the vagus nerve is stimulated by triggers like stress, fear and pain. It can lead to nausea, dizziness and fainting, according to Very Well Health.
Dr. Jesse Tucker, the director of critical care medicine at CHI Memorial Hospital Chattanooga, told WCTV that it is not an unusual response after any vaccination.
“It is a reaction that can happen very frequently with any vaccine, with a shot of any kind,” he said. “No reason to suspect that that’s due to the vaccine whatsoever.”
Fainting can happen after many types of vaccinations, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most reports are linked to three shots with different ingredients: HPV, MCV4 and Tdap. That led scientists to conclude that the fainting may result from the temporary pain of vaccination, rather than the shot itself.
Numerous other staff members at CHI Memorial also received the COVID-19 shot without incident. Soon after her vaccination, Dover told WTVC that she felt better.
“It just hit me all of the sudden, I could feel it coming on,” Dover said. “I felt a little disoriented but I feel fine now, and the pain in my arm is very minimal.”
There is no reason to believe that the shot that Dover received is unsafe.
The vaccine — manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech — received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 11. A trial of over 44,000 people found the shot to be extremely safe and 95% effective, per USA TODAY.
Our rating: Missing context
Based on our research, the claim that a nurse fainted as a result of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is MISSING CONTEXT. The nurse, Tiffany Dover, told reporters that she has an underlying health condition that causes her to pass out easily, including after she experiences pain. A doctor also said the reaction occurs “frequently” with all vaccines. And there is no reason to believe the COVID-19 vaccine is unsafe.
Our fact-check sources:
WRCB Channel 3 Eyewitness News, Dec. 17, First doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered at Chattanooga hospital on Thursday
WTVC-TV NewsChannel 9, Dec. 17, The first COVID-19 vaccinations among Hamilton County healthcare workers began Thursday
WRCB Chattanooga, Dec. 18, Critical care nurse at CHI Memorial explains her fainting after COVID-19 vaccine
Very Well Health, Jan. 21, What Triggers the Vagal Response?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fainting after Vaccination
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Health condition, not COVID-19 vaccine, made nurse faint