Covid-19 vaccine and needle phobia: how virtual reality is helping people overcome fear

The New Zealand government is urging kiwis to be vaccinated against Covid-19, but for some, the thought and vision of the needles is terrifying.

The fear of needles, trypanophobia, is real and can prevent people from getting significant vaccinations.

According to the World Health Organization, 16% of adults worldwide avoid flu vaccination due to phobia.

Now, a distraction app developed by New Zealand company oVRcome, uses virtual reality (VR) to help relieve anxiety and encourage more people to take the hit.

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It is one of two apps designed by the company to help people with phobias.

The distraction app joins VR headsets that allow patients to immerse themselves in virtual environments such as beaches, mountains, rivers, lakes and waterfalls, to distract them while injecting.

VRcome founder Adam Hutchinson and Dr.  Cameron Lacey, of the University of Otago, with the virtual reality application.

provided / Waikato Times

VRcome founder Adam Hutchinson and Dr. Cameron Lacey, of the University of Otago, with the virtual reality application.

OvRcome founder Adam Hutchinson said it helps eliminate fear, especially for younger patients, now that Covid-19 vaccines are open to 12-year-olds or older.

“It’s a short-term solution,” Hutchinson said Things.

“We have a huge cohort of people who need to be vaccinated, but just seeing a picture of a needle on TV is enough to scare them away. We have the opportunity to use technology and reduce hesitation. of the vaccine “.

The service is offered free of charge to patients.

General practitioners in Auckland, Christchurch and Whangamata currently use the Needle Distraction app.

A virtual reality app helps people with needle phobia get the Covid-19 vaccine.

supplied

A virtual reality app helps people with needle phobia get the Covid-19 vaccine.

The company has received inquiries from health clinics around the world, including the United States, Europe and Australia, who are looking for a similar app to offer their patients.

More than 1.88 million kiwis have now received at least one dose of Pfizer vaccine and more than a million are fully vaccinated.

All applications are part of Hutchinson’s overview: to apply technology to problems.

Hutchinson wants better support for mental health services, an area that is already under enormous pressure. It is estimated that up to 80% of people with phobia do not seek treatment because it is too hard or expensive, he said.

“If we can use technology to help in some areas that help reduce pressure and workload, that’s something.”

Vaccination event for essential services and frontline staff at TSB Stadium in New Plymouth.

SIMON O’CONNOR / Things

Vaccination event for essential services and frontline staff at TSB Stadium in New Plymouth.

After working with a team of clinical psychologists, Hutchinson also launched the oVRcome app, a long-term treatment to help overcome fears.

“It’s called exposure therapy, which puts them in environments they wouldn’t normally enter, but through virtual reality.”

It is a three to six week program designed to eliminate user phobia together.

Sam, of Christchurch, who is afraid of needles, began the program in June and received his first vaccination against Covid-19 on Thursday.

While admitting they were a little nervous, Sam said, “I worked on the techniques I learned through the program, and in the end it was pretty straightforward.”

One study suggests that treating fear in needles may reduce hesitation.

Researchers at the University of Oxford in England said people with fear of needles were twice as likely to say they doubted the Covid-19 vaccine, to let them vaccinate or, ultimately, to never receive the puncture.

The data indicate that if all anxiety was removed by injection from the population, more than 10% of the hesitation may disappear.

Anyone administering Covid-19 vaccines can inquire about both applications by registering interest at www.oVRcome.io

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