This Fear Is Keeping People From Being Vaccinated Against COVID-19

How the vaccination campaign is going depends on who you ask. As of mid-May, the CDC says just over 161 million people — that's more than 60% of adults — have had at least one shot, and President Joe Biden has made it a goal to reach 70% by Independence Day, July 4 (via the New York Times).

That's encouraging enough, but signs are pointing to a 44% decrease in the number of vaccines that are being administered on a daily basis and health officials and state governments are doing what they can to bring those numbers back up, offering free stuff from food, beer, and savings bonds, to tickets to concerts and sporting events (via U.S. News & World Report). The federal government has even partnered with dating sites to get the word out because, you know, "People who display their vaccination status are 14% more likely to get a match. We have finally found the one thing that makes us all more attractive" (via Twitter).

While data shows that vaccine hesitancy can be driven by politics, there's another reason why some folks are prepared to keep masking up and washing their hands for as long as it takes, and it's called trypanophobia or a fear of needles (via Healthline). Needle phobia is so pervasive that Cedars-Sinai clinical psychologist Robert A. Chernoff says as many as 10% of Americans are highly anxious about needles, and, "When you look at the U.S. population that's millions of people."

10% of Americans could suffer from needle fear

In an op-ed for The New York Times, C. Meghan McMurtry, associate professor of psychology at Canada's University of Guelph, says that needle fear comes in varying degrees — needles can make people feel uneasy and they can also trigger what is called "blood injection injury phobia" — which is a mental health diagnosis. In fact, "avoidance of needles is the key thing that a person with needle fear tends to do and that can be very unhealthy for people who really need a procedure involving injection," as Cedars-Sinai's Robert A. Chernoff explains.

Not that you can blame those who suffer from needle fears. Those who get vaccinations or any procedures done with a needle can experience immunization stress-related responses, such as getting lightheaded and dizzy, or even fainting. When these anecdotes are retold to others who suffer from needle fears, there is even more anxiety involved in getting a shot (via CANVax).

It may help to know that medical practitioners have found ways to help patients deal with needle fear. McMurty recommends the CARD system (Comfort, Ask, Relax, Distract), which allows those with needle fear to develop a coping plan when they go in to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Nurses at Cedars-Sinai encourage patients to look away when the shot is being administered, to use deep breathing techniques to get over the anxiety, or even to use numbing cream so patients don't know what is happening. After all, the rewards seem worth the while.