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From vaccine hesitancy to fully immunised

As we near the end of the year of the global vaccine rollout, countries across the World are grappling with the reality that achieving their goals is no easy task. Of course the media are documenting many reasons for this, but one of those less discussed is vaccine hesitancy. So what is it, why are people hesitant and can you go from vaccine hesitancy to fully immunised?

What is vaccine hesitancy?

Let’s be clear, one thing it is not, it is not an anti-vaccination stance. There are a number of factors which are causing people to take their time to consider their stance and approach to the process more hesitantly than others. Vaccine hesitancy is the term being used to describe individuals who are affected by such factors, which is causing them to not independently and proactively seek out their first, or even their second jab.

Why are people vaccine hesitant?

When it comes to vaccine hesitancy in the case of Covid-19, it appears to be coming from a place of uncertainty, confusion and fear. Here in New Zealand, statistics suggest that 30% of the population are affected. The science is saying, it’s not a single factor which is driving forward someone’s hesitancy. In fact, there are indications that there are several factors at play.

The influence of your community, your own belief systems, some fears and maybe even some needle phobia is all at play in driving up hesitancy. Importantly, researchers are also suggesting that a lack of relationship between patients and their local doctors practice is having an impact on people’s desire to visit for a Covid vaccine.

It is important to recognise that trypanophobia, a fear of needles, poses a significant barrier for some to step forward for each dose of the vaccine. 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 Fear of Needles test which generates a customised report with some actionable tips for an individual's severity level. It is available here and completely free.

How to go from vaccine hesitancy to fully immunised

Promoting the uptake of vaccines, particularly those hesitant of the Covid-19 inoculation, will require understanding of the reasons why people are unsure, and very clear communication of key information. So, what are some of the ways to get there?

Accessing information from credible sources is an essential part of this process. Researchers and scientists have worked tirelessly to deliver a vaccine which has been tested in the appropriate manner, with no cut corners, all to meet the global demand for a vaccination. Trusting in the results of such testing, and understanding key takeaway messages is vital, such as the diversity of testing, the safe manufacture process and so on.

Seeking out support from agencies and support programmes, such as oVRcome, to better understand the psychological effects of the hesitancy. Knowing this can be empowering and facilitate action which is targeted at some of those effects.

And when it comes to the ways in with a GP practice can support their patients, developing a rapport is central to the success. But there is another pathway to support their patients - the oVRcome 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. If you are a practitioner looking to support patients at your clinic, read more about the app here.

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