A healthcare worker gets vaccine at Gatesville Melomed vaccination centre in Athlone. Photo: Ayanda Ndamane AFrican News Agency (ANA)
A healthcare worker gets vaccine at Gatesville Melomed vaccination centre in Athlone. Photo: Ayanda Ndamane AFrican News Agency (ANA)

Your fear of needles is not irrational but will it stop you from getting vaccinated against Covid-19?

By Marchelle Abrahams Time of article published Mar 26, 2021

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Your palms are sweaty, your heart rate starts increasing. “It’s just a little pin prick,” they say.

But it’s not, is it? It’s a fear that’s so irrational that all any logical thought goes out the window.

There’s a word for it, and no, you’re alone. About 22% of the adult population suffers from trypanophobia – a fear of needles.

According to Healthline, trypanophobia is an extreme fear of medical procedures involving injections or hypodermic needles.

And children, especially, are afraid of needles because they’re unused to the sensation of their skin being pricked by something sharp.

Fortunately, experts say by the time most people reach adulthood, they can tolerate needles much more easily.

But it’s not always the case.

With South Africa in phase 1 of Covid-19 vaccinations, a simple needle prick is all that stands between you and immunity.

Skeptics have been quick to dispute research and data surrounding the latest vaccine developments.

While conducting a survey in January this year, CompariSure found why some were unwilling to get vaccinated – 34% of users cited “side effects” as their main concern.

Other commonly stated reasons for rejecting the jab included “religion” (13%) and “cost/price” (16%), with approximately 40% of respondents stating “other”.

Another interesting reason was the “fear of needles”.

Online editor Megan Baadjies is one these people.

“I don't take a flu shot, I don't donate blood and even a finger prick scares me,” admitted Baadjies.

She recalled a time when she was in matric and had her ears pierced for the first time.

“I fainted on the counter,” she laughed.

When her daughter Mayah had her first shot at 6 weeks, she had to leave the room.

“That's how scared I am. I'd like to get vaccinated, but I might give it a skip because of my fear of needles.”

When IOL Lifestyle conducted a Twitter poll, we asked respondents if their fear of needles would make them reluctant to be vaccinated.

About 77.8% responded no, 16.6% said yes and 5.6% said maybe.

“Injections by their very nature are unpleasant. To qualify as tryanophobia, it must cause extreme distress, avoidance of the procedure and significant anxiety in anticipation of the injection,” said counselling psychologist Rakhi Beekrum.

“Individuals with such phobias generally avoid seeking medical care, due to the fear of requiring an injection.”

One of the main causes of tryanophobia is a past negative or traumatic incident involving needles, added Beekrum.

The question is: Is there a way to alleviate this fear?

"Treatments for such phobias require psychotherapies such as cognitive behavioural or behavioural therapies, visualisation/relaxation exercises, systematic desensitisation or BWRT (BrainWorking Recursive Therapy), " said the Durban-based psychologist.

Very extreme cases, in which the individual is unresponsive to therapy, may require pharmacological treatment for anxiety by a psychiatrist or GP.

“Because of the nature of phobias, they are difficult to manage on one’s own and do require professional intervention.”

There is good news on the horizon, though.

Experts say that a Covid-19 vaccine pill is on the verge of testing later this year.

Vaccine jabs may be the silver bullet for serious illnesses but can falter with preventing infections.

Oravax, the company behind the invention, announced that it hopes to begin the first phase of clinical trials by June.

An oral vaccine could "potentially [enable] people to take the vaccine themselves at home", Nadav Kidron, CEO of Oramed, said in a press release.

In another trial, an Israeli company produced an oral Covid vaccine, and found that pigs produces the desired antibodies after taking it, The Times Of Israel reported.

Oramed Pharmaceuticals believes that the innovation could “revolutionize coronavirus inoculation” by saving lives by speeding up the process.

“This oral vaccine could would allow us to vaccinate much quicker and much more easily. Just imagine that you don’t need to go to a clinic. The pill could even arrive in your mailbox, and you could take it in your own home,” said the company’s chief scientific officer Dr. Miriam Kidron.

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