• Liam Tracey

Covid vaccine and needle fear

As 2020 continues to redefine what we understand the management of health systems to look like, we are on the brink of one of the largest roll-outs of a vaccine across the Globe that we have ever seen. The Covid-19 vaccine may well still be in development, but it is going to pose logistical challenges, fair distribution issues and even a lack of uptake. For some, this may be related to some conspiracy theories, or an anti-vac standpoint. But for others, the fear of needles, or trypanophobia, will pose the biggest barrier to receiving an injection.

If you would like to know more about trypanophobia, have a look at one of our earlier articles, which looks at what a fear of needles is like and how it can affect us.

The barrier to vaccination


Needle phobia is at an all time high, with Studies suggesting that 63% of young adults in the United States – those born in 2000 or later – fear needles. When placed in the context of a global pandemic and a year like no other, this looks set to cause a significant challenge to the uptake of the Coronavirus vaccination. 


So why is trypanophobia so prevalent in this section of the population? Further investigations by researchers have found that there is a direct correlation between the increased rates of needle fear and the large rise in vaccines given to children since the turn of the 20th century. In real terms, that is 30 more injections over the last 40 years. While this has meant that cases of infectious diseases in children have virtually disappeared, the fear of needles has blossomed. 


Closer to home


When it comes to a local perspective about the Covid-19 inoculation, there is a lot still to understand about the New Zealand vaccine roll out. An article written earlier today the Herald talked about what we do know so far, and speculated what we may be able to expect in the coming months and into 2021. 


Ultimately, as a signed up member to the World Health Organisations fair distribution programme, we are set to receive in the region of 750,000 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. While this isn’t going to go all that far in covering the whole population, we’re likely to see frontline and border staff be the priority. In turn, this will give the Government sufficient time to deliver a clear education programme which will inform us on how to go about getting an injection, and also iron out the logistics on distributing the doses, needles and so on around the country. 


While there isn’t any specific data to shine a light on the rates of trypanophobia here in New Zealand, it is safe to say that it is still prevalent as inoculation programmes in children are continuing to take place here. Could this fear affect uptake in the younger population?  


Coping with the injection


When the time comes, and you might be called to receive your vaccine dose, there are ways in which you can manage the negative feelings and overwhelming emotions that come with trypanophobia. 


The best strategy is to have a plan beforehand. You are aware that you fear needles, and that might mean that you understand the more specific aspects of that fear. So, make a plan to combat this.


Do you find the sight of the needles to be a trigger? While looking away is always an option, why not plan a distraction? Take your phone with a video to watch or a game or app to play.


Is the sensation of the injection the bit that triggers you? It is possible to numb the skin around the injection area using simple topical anesthetics. The professionals will be happy to help with this if you haven’t any yourself. 


If you are generally anxious, discuss the procedure with the clinician beforehand, ask some questions and trust that they are trained and will help you through it. If you want to, bring a friend or family member along to support you further. 

Wondering if you have a fear of needles? Want to take action so that it doesn’t affect your health in the future? oVRcome are continuing to develop their programme which utilises exposure therapy using virtual reality technology to support individuals with phobias. Why not take their Fear of Needles test and receive a free customised report with some actionable tips for your severity level?

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