COVID-19 vaccine: Fear of needles could slow vaccination process; some tips to overcome trypanophobia

A fear of needles for those who must get medication delivered by injection can go one of two ways -- facing the moments of fear and getting through it, or avoiding the whole thing altogether.

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But when there is a pandemic and the way to defeat it and regain some normalcy in life is to be stuck in the arm with a needle, trypanophobia, or the fear of getting an injection, can present a problem.

According to researchers, for Americans to be able to return to activities they did before the pandemic, around 70% to 80% of the country would need to have had the COVID-19 virus or be vaccinated against it.

When that number is reached, it would mean the United States had achieved herd immunity, or a point where most of a population is immune to an infectious disease either through contracting the disease and surviving, or by being vaccinated against it.

Fear of being stuck with a needle can be a big hurdle in the effort to get people to take the vaccination since the approved vaccine not only comes as a shot, but it also takes two shots three weeks apart to get the needed dose of the vaccine.

An estimated 25% of adults are afraid of needles, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leading to an estimated 7% of the adults who avoid immunizations because of trypanophobia.

In addition, researchers found that:

  • More females than males show a fear of needles
  • While a majority of children have a fear of needles, that fear seems to diminish with age
  • Sixteen percent of adult patients, 27% of hospital employees, 18% of workers at long-term care facilities and 8% of health care workers at hospitals avoid getting flu shots because of fear of needles.

So what can you do if you want to be vaccinated but are bothered by needle sticks?

The website Psycom offers some ideas for preparing yourself to get an injection if you fear needles. Dr. Michael D. McGee, a psychiatrist and chief medical officer at The Haven at Pismo, a California addiction treatment center, suggests:

  • Practice deep breathing: It will calm you down. “Visualize yourself being in a comfortable place,” McGee said.
  • Think about why you are doing it: Imagine the worst that can happen if you don’t take the shot. Then realize the discomfort from the shot is only a temporary thing.
  • Distract yourself: Imagine you are somewhere else, in the mountains or on a beach. Close your eyes if that helps you to imagine a tranquil spot.
  • Don’t look: If the sight of the vaccination being given makes you uncomfortable, look away. Many people deal with vaccinations this way.

Dr. Timothy Hendrix, medical director of AdventHealth Centra Care Urgent Care in Tampa, Florida, has another tip for those who are uncomfortable getting a shot.

“Get your doctor or nurse involved,” Hendrix suggests. “When you go to get a shot, be up front with your medical team about your fear. You can even tell them in advance, while you’re making the appointment over the phone. When the big day comes, your doctor or nurse may take a little extra time getting you comfortable and ready for the shot or use special techniques to distract you.”

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