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How to get through the Covid vaccine

Updated: Aug 24, 2022

Those with needle phobias, one of the more common phobias people tend to have, are being exposed to images and depictions of needles more than ever. And while it may be a comfort to know you’re not alone, being faced with having to get the COVID-19 vaccine may still cause deep anxiety for some.

Most of us aren’t too fond of getting shots, but we “deal with it” because we understand the benefits. For someone with trypanophobia, the fear takes over and causes severe feelings of dread and anxiety. It even stops people from getting medical care they need, including important vaccinations like the one for COVID-19.

There are different ways of treating fears and phobias, through cognitive behavioural therapy, and exposure therapy. That might involve looking at pictures of needles, and eventually handling the syringe in your hand, for example. But for many, the time for a vaccination is fast approaching. And with vaccine selfies all over social media, most people have had their share of exposures, to the point that anxiety levels are high.

As it stands, there is no alternative to the needle. All Covid-19 vaccines have to be given via injection. Could it mean some people might choose to opt out of the vaccine because of their fear of needles? Here is one approach which might just give those with trypanophobia the techniques to manage the vaccination process.

The CARD system

Dr. Anna Taddio, a pharmacist and researcher at the University of Toronto, who focuses on mitigating pain and fear during medical procedures, has developed a system which could truly help those with trypanophobia. The CARD system — comfort, ask, relax, distract — offers coping mechanisms for use during vaccinations. In schools, kids get physical cards, but you can play these cards in your mind. Importantly, different strategies might work better for different people. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach here.

Comfort: This could be choosing music to listen to, wearing comfortable clothes, or even taking something soft to sit on. Bringing a trusted friend could be a good strategy too.

Ask: Some people, Taddio says, feel comforted by learning more about what’s going to happen. So, if this might be something which could help you, engage with the medical staff and talk through what is happening for you at that moment. Ask any or all questions!

Relax: There are a number of relaxation techniques which we can employ to help achieve this one. From breathing techniques, to humming, to arriving with plenty of time in advance of your time slot. What works for one person, might not for another. You know yourself best, trust that and go with it.

Distract: This strategy is often the most effective for people, Taddio says. Chat with the nurse, read posters on the wall, watch something on your device, or listen to that music mentioned earlier. Of course, not everyone wants to be distracted. Some get comfort from watching the injection, so they don’t exaggerate the procedure in their minds.

In this area, here at oVRcome, the team have been working hard to create apps and programmes to support individuals with a range of phobias and anxiety. Trypanophobia is one of those phobias. Read our previous blog post to learn more about our new ‘Needle Distraction’ app which has just been released.

Ultimately, needle phobia is a serious condition which deserves our attention, particularly in this moment in time. Recognising this, and supporting those we know with trypanophobia to receive the COVID-19 vaccination is crucial. And if you find your anxiety rising at the idea of receiving the inoculation, remember that you are in control and you have the power to manage the situation in whatever way will make it easy for you. The key to the CARD system is choice: you choose which cards to play.


With the vaccine being delivered through an injection, it poses a challenge for those with trypanophobia. oVRcome are continuing to develop their programme which utilises exposure therapy using virtual reality technology to support individuals with phobias. Why not take our Fear of Needles test and receive a free customised report with some actionable tips for your severity level?

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