Of the more than 800,000 people who have had their COVID-19 vaccination in the Black Country and West Birmingham so far, thousands have first had to overcome a crippling fear of needles.
Needle phobia, known scientifically as trypanophobia, affects around one in every 10 people and causes severe feelings of dread and anxiety at the thought of being pricked by a needle. The vaccinators and staff at local vaccination centres have been trained to support people who suffer from this common phobia to overcome their fears for a brief moment in order to get themselves protected.
One person who succeeded is 51-year-old Andrew Stait from Walsall, who recently had his second dose, and was able to do so because he believes protecting himself and his loved ones is more important.
He said: “For as long as I can remember injections of any kind have been an issue. I don’t like needles. I wouldn’t even consider travelling to a place where you need to be vaccinated before visiting. “As someone who is scared – even petrified – of injections it was always going to be a big challenge mentally. I can’t even watch a vaccination on television. Unless my back was firmly against a wall and I had no other option, then I would avoid anything that involved a needle.
“This is the one occasion when I really felt that the vaccine was not just for me but also for my family, friends and the community. With COVID-19 we are all in it together, and by getting vaccinated we are not just looking after ourselves but each other.
“No matter how mentally challenging for some a vaccination is, I would imagine that it would be many, many times more challenging if you were to pass it on to an older person and the possible consequences.
“Two short visits to the vaccination centre gives you hope and confidence to face the future.”
Andrew received his vaccination at the Saddlers Centre in Walsall, where he says the staff took his fears seriously. He was able to take someone for moral support on both occasions and go to a screened-off area so he could take his time getting mentally prepared for the jab.
Dr Salma Reehana, local GP and Clinical Chair of BCWB CCG, said: “Andrew is a real inspiration for the thousands of people across BCWB who are hesitant about getting the COVID-19 vaccine because of a phobia of needles.
“We take people’s fears very seriously and all our sites are equipped to support you through making this important decision and ensuring the process is as comfortable for you as possible.
“Andrew says it best when he points out that vaccination is for your loved ones and your community as much as it is for yourself. If you do feel able to put aside your fears and get the jab, you’re playing an incredibly important role in our shared battle against this terrible virus.”
There is a vaccine available for every adult aged 18 and over in the Black Country and West Birmingham, even if you have previously declined and have changed your mind. Call 119 or visit nhs.uk/coronavirus-vaccination.
If needles make you nervous, to help prepare for your vaccination you may wish to try some of the following:
• Use meditation and breathing techniques to try and manage anxiety
• Tame your thoughts by focusing on a fixed point in the room and studying it intensely
• Like Andrew, try to control your emotions by focusing on what your vaccination means to your most vulnerable loved ones
• Take your time and ask all the questions you need to – your vaccinator is here to help
• If you have a significant phobia of needles, do mention this to your vaccine centre team on arrival, so they can make the appropriate allowances
If your phobia is severe enough to prevent you getting medical treatment when you need it, you can self-refer to your local talking therapies service to learn coping techniques or get mental health support: