Psychologists on site at Christchurch vaccination sites to support needle-fearing Kiwis

Author
Anna Leask, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 1 Dec 2021, 2:05PM
(Photo / Getty)
(Photo / Getty)

Psychologists on site at Christchurch vaccination sites to support needle-fearing Kiwis

Author
Anna Leask, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 1 Dec 2021, 2:05PM

A team of Christchurch psychologists will be on site at a city pharmacy next week to support people with needle anxiety to get vaccinated.

They say a significant number of people have not been vaccinated to date due to significant anxiety or fear around needles and will be volunteering at a Bargain Chemist store next week to help those affected get their Covid-19 vaccines.

The team from The Psychology Hub - a group of therapists who deal with a wide range of mental health difficulties - have also created a video and handout to help people affected make sense of their anxiety, learn tips to manage it and feel more confident.

Director and clinical psychologist Aimee Hanson said of the people currently unvaccinated it was possible a "significant portion" were avoiding the process due to a psychological fears of needles.

"Having treated phobias successfully in the past, including needle phobia when working at the Diabetes Centre, I began to wonder about those in the community who may have decided they want to receive the vaccine, yet their anxiety or response to needles made them avoid it," Hanson said.

"A quick scan of international literature suggested that needle anxiety was likely to account for a modest portion of the vaccine-hesitant group."

Hanson said early inquiries about creating an initiative alongside public health authorities to focus on needle anxiety did not gain momentum.

The idea was "shelved" for a time, but then Hanson and her colleagues began to receiving regular referrals for people who had "tried to get the vaccine done but their anxiety meant they were unsuccessful".

She and her colleague Anna Comins began to provide individual sessions around needle anxiety.

However, it quickly became clear that they needed to do much more to meet the demand.

They created an online video and accompanying handout which Hanson said was aimed to assist people - wherever they are in New Zealand - to understand their needle anxiety better and "hopefully feel more confident about getting vaccinated".

"Here in Christchurch, we are taking it a step further and offering to support those with needle anxiety receive their vaccination at two speciality clinics in association with the lovely pharmacists at Bargain Chemist Tower Junction," Hanson said.

"We ask that anyone who would like a registered mental health professional to support them to manage their anxiety during the vaccination book a slot with Bargain Chemist directly and our team will be onsite."

The team will be at the Riccarton site on Friday 10 and Monday 13 December from 8.30am to 11am.

Hanson encouraged people to book and to watch the educational video before arriving.

According The Psychology Hub team, needle anxiety is "reasonably common".

"Studies tell us somewhere from 3-10 per cent will have a significant fear of needles," Hanson said in the educational handout.

"Sometimes there is a clear cause, like a negative experience in the past. Although often, there is not.

"We know it tends to run in families, which is likely a mix of both biological and learning experiences contributing to the problem."

They explained that there were a range of things people with needle anxiety may fear when receiving a vaccination.

Some will fear the experience of pain, others will feel "disgusted or repulsed at the idea of something foreign entering their body".

"Some may fear things going wrong, like the needle breaking, hitting a bone or serious reactions to the vaccine," Hanson said.

"Some people can't identify what they fear, yet simply feel terrified."