COVID vaccine: More than just a shot for those afraid of needles

Vaccine eligibility expands on Monday, April 5 -- making it available to everyone 16 years and older. That also means a wider range of people who may have a fear of needles -- known as trypanophobia. 

According to a 2019 Journal of Advanced Nursing study, 20% to 30% of American adults ranging from 20 to 40 years old never got over their fear of needles. 

"So, it's actually a pretty large number in adults and is a common thing to see," said Victoria Egizio, a UW Health clinical health psychologist.

Victoria Egizio

Victoria Egizio

UW Health officials say the first step to getting over this fear so you can get your COVID-19 vaccine is to identify your "why" for getting it. 

"We want to think about perhaps to be able to help yourself, or family, or to go to the grocery store with more confidence or be able to help the world and society," Egizio said. "Whatever those personal, genuine reasons are for you for you to even be thinking about getting the vaccine, you want to spend some time building those up in your mind."

The same goes for your teenager -- as well as making the experience as comfortable as possible for them.

"I think the more you normalize it and make it a part of your family and core values will just make it an easier pill to swallow," Egizio said.

In the end, it is a tiny needle that will make a big difference.

"This is a small prick. It is not like someone is coming to slice your arm with a knife. Remind yourself that its bearable and also that its temporary," Egizio said. 

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Here are a few things you can do to overcome your fear of needles: 

  • Before, during, and after vaccination, utility belly breathing to calm the body.
  • Try to positively distract yourself with something -- like talking casually with the person giving you the shot.
  • Prior to vaccination, focus on positive, hopeful things -- for example, getting a vaccination will help family and friends stay safe.

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