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Covid-19 and vaccine hesitancy

Updated: Aug 24, 2022

The year is 2021 and the World is still grappling with the effects of Covid-19. From variants, to phased relaxing of restrictions, the narrative is still quite similar. However, what is getting the most traction, dominating the headlines, is the rollout of the vaccine across the globe. While this is different for each country, as a result of access and infrastructure, the move to vaccinate the population in order to support the return to normality is a common factor for each nation. But so is vaccine hesitancy.

Not to be confused with the rising popularity in the anti-vaccination movement, vaccine hesitancy refers specifically to safety of the new vaccines, and scepticism about the seriousness of Coronavirus. When put in the context of the current global pandemic, and that governments are placing significant value on a rollout programme to protect their population and enable a return to normality, vaccine hesitancy poses a challenge.

As a new study suggests one in four adults screens positive for a potential injection phobia, it is being put forward that treating the fear of needles may reduce coronavirus vaccine hesitancy. In fact, the data found that if all injection anxiety in the population were removed, then more than 10 percent of instances of vaccine hesitancy might disappear.

Researchers from the University of Oxford conducted the study earlier in the year, with just over 15,000 UK adults sampled to match the population for age, gender, ethnicity, income, and region. This gave the most realistic picture of where the population was at with regards to the motivation to uptake the Covid-19 vaccine.

The study delved deeper into what was a driving factor in a fear of needles. Ranging from the sight of a hypodermic needle or blood, the piercing sensation, or the dramatic changes in heart rate which can lead to fainting or panic attacks; they can drive up anxiety in those with trypanophobia and influence their willingness to receive the vaccine.

The lead researcher, Professor Freeman, didn’t shy away from the reality of the study’s findings in today’s climate. "When it comes to controlling Covid-19, every vaccination counts. There is much that can be done to help people overcome their fear of needles.”

So, when considering all of this information, what can be a way forward to support those who need it? What is out there to help individuals and health agencies to lower the rate of vaccine hesitancy? That’s where oVRcome can be the difference.

With the vaccine being delivered through a series of injections, we know that it poses a challenge for those with trypanophobia. That’s why here at oVRcome we are continuing to develop our programme which utilises exposure therapy using virtual reality technology and cognitive behavioural therapy to support individuals with phobias. We offer a free Fear of Needles test which generates a customised report with some actionable tips for an individual's severity level.

Furthermore, the team has been working hard to create an app which can support individuals through the vaccine process, specifically when at the clinic to receive the injection. The ‘Needle Distraction’ app offers those with trypanophobia a practical and useful tool to get through a challenging part of this global pandemic. Read more about it here.

As for our website, the Blog is filled with articles which can offer some insights into needle phobia, and a whole host of other anxiety-driven fears, some of which have actionable tips to help get you or others through. There is even a Podcast episode, in which oVRcome's founder Adam talks with Guillaume from France for around 15 minutes about his experience living with an extreme fear of needles.

Finally, if you’d like to find out more about the work that we do, or learn more about the programmes offered by oVRcome, reach out, drop us an email or a comment. We’re here to help and ready to engage to make the rollout the most anxiety-free it can possibly be.

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