Is fear of needles keeping you from COVID vaccine?

COVID-19 Vaccine

Liana Fonseca looks away as she receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine March 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

(NEXSTAR) — An average healthy person will get at least 165 needle sticks over a lifetime, based on routine vaccinations and tests, according to Harvard Health.

But could the fear of needles keep you from getting vaccinated against COVID-19, which has claimed more than 603,000 lives in the United States?

Trypanophobia is a common condition characterized by irrational, extreme fear or aversion to blood or needles. Up to 25% of adults are estimated to be afraid of needles, possibly leading 16% of Americans to avoid vaccinations, according to Harvard Health.

The Associated Press reported this week that nearly all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. now are in unvaccinated people. The finding indicates that deaths per day—now down to under 300—could be practically zero if everyone eligible got the vaccine.

According to an Associated Press analysis of available government data from May, “breakthrough” infections in fully vaccinated people accounted for fewer than 1,200 of more than 853,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations — about 0.1%.

And only about 150 of the more than 18,000 COVID-19 deaths in May were in fully vaccinated people. That translates to about 0.8%, or five deaths per day on average.

In May, President Joe Biden set a goal to vaccinate 70% of American adults by the Fourth of July, but the White House acknowledged this week that he will fall shy of his 70% goal and an associated aim of fully vaccinating 165 million adults in the same time frame.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that “everyone 12 years and older should get a COVID-19 vaccination to help protect against COVID-19.”

However, that may be difficult for people who are afraid of needles.

Trypanophobia sufferers who encounter needles or who anticipate doing so may experience fear or anxiety; panic attacks, nausea, or sweats; palpitations, fainting or insomnia before an expected needle stick, Harvard Health reported. But there are things they can do to help deal with the fear, according to the report.

How to cope with a fear of needles

  • Support: Bring a spouse, friend, or family member.
  • Distraction: Focus on something other than the needle stick.
  • Disclosure: Tell the medical professional giving you a shot or drawing blood that this is difficult for you, and let them know what works best for you to get through it.
  • Numbing: Ask the medical professional if they can use a numbing agent or freezing spray to numb skin before a needle stick.
  • Look away: Don’t watch! It’s not helpful to watch all of the preparation for the needle stick or see the needle itself. Watching may make things worse.
  • Relax: Try deep breathing or other relaxation techniques before having the needle stick.
  • Don’t tense up: Relax the muscle receiving the injection, resulting in less pain.
  • Recline: if you’ve fainted or felt woozy during needle sticks, lie down beforehand.

Currently, there are three kinds of COVID-19 shots authorized in the U.S. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are available for people 18 and older, while the Pfizer/BionTech vaccine is approved for those aged 12 years and above.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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