Help – I want to get my vaccine but I’m afraid of needles

The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and the best protection against coronavirus, but what if you want to have the jab – but you’re scared of needles?

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. The charity Anxiety UK estimates that up to 10 per cent of UK adults have some degree of needle phobia.

Thankfully, our NHS vaccination teams have lots of experience of helping nervous patients get their jabs – so please let us know about any worries you have on arrival.

According to Christiana Pena, matron at Centre Court vaccination centre in Wimbledon, it’s all about taking the time with people and giving them a bit of privacy. “We get some patients who are petrified of needles. We take them aside. We’ve got a pod to give them privacy and we take the time to reassure them. When we’ve finished, they say, ‘Oh was that it? It wasn’t as bad as I thought’. They’re really thankful for the extra time, for not being hurried.

“We also have leaflets for people with needle phobia that give tips on how to cope. We give them this to read before they have their vaccine.”

And for Brigatte Mishov, matron at AFC Wimbledon Vaccination Centre helping people who are feeling anxious is also one of the most satisfying parts of the job: “People say such nice things to our staff after they’ve had their vaccination. We’ve had people who’ve been truly needle-phobic who tell us that their journey in receiving the vaccine has been life-changing!”

If you are feeling nervous, please let us know when you arrive on site – so we can give you the right support.

Please make sure you have eaten and are well hydrated before you come for your vaccination, particularly during hot weather.

Top tips for overcoming your fear of needles

1. Remember why you’re doing this

It’s worth taking time to think about why you’re having the jab, reminding yourself that the COVID-19 vaccine is saving lives and has been rigorously tested. Think about how getting the vaccine will benefit your family, friends and wider community too.

This worked for Nick who said: “I’ve just had my vaccine, even though I’m afraid of needles. I know I need to get it done. My best friend has a health condition. If she got COVID it would be bad. It’s not rocket science – I just wanted to get it done, get it over with.”

2. A technique called applied tension can help prevent fainting

Make sure you’re sitting comfortably then tense the muscles in your arms, upper body and legs for 15 seconds. Release the tension then, after 20-30 seconds tense your muscles again. Repeat this five times.

3. Use breathing techniques if you’re feeling anxious

Sit up straight in a comfortable position and let your shoulders and jaw relax. Put one hand low on your stomach. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose and out through your mouth. Do this for five breaths. Try to do this three times a day for up to a week before your appointment. Read more about these and other techniques in this sheet from Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

4. Talk to your GP

If you have a strong needle phobia, techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy can help, so talk to your GP.

How to get your COVID-19 vaccine

If you’re aged 18+, you can book your COVID-19 vaccine online, or come along to one of our walk-in clinics. Find out more.