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.

Many patients with needle phobia may have had a lot of blood tests or procedures as a child. A fear of needles and injections often, but not always, results from bad memories of needles earlier in life.

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.

Ujjal Sarkar, GP at Medicus Health Partners Carlton House in Enfield, explains how staff in vaccination clinics look after people who are worried or phobic about needles.

“When you arrive for your vaccine, it’s a good idea to tell the person checking you in that you are worried about getting the injection. At Medicus Carlton House, we have a large consultation room which is private and bigger than the standard vaccination pods. We use this room for anyone who feels worried or anxious about the vaccination. We will find a vaccinator who can spend as much time as you need to talk through your fears and help you to feel ready before giving you the vaccine.

“Vaccination staff are very used to caring for people with worries and fears about injections and they will look after you through the whole process.”

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. If there are queues when you arrive, speak to someone as soon as possible to let them know you will need extra support. It may be a good idea to arrive at the beginning of the day to avoid long queues.

Please make sure you have eaten and are well hydrated before you come for your vaccination.

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.

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. 

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.

5. Access free resources to help you overcome your fear

There is a lot of free information and support available online.

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.