Joe McDougall started having nightmares as soon as COVID-19 became a pandemic. Not, like others, about the potential path of the virus, but about the seemingly inevitable moment at which he’d be asked—or held down and forced—to receive a vaccine. McDougall was terrified of needles as a child and now he’s 39. A global pandemic may force him to receive a vaccine for the first time.
Fear of needles is the most overlooked challenge in mass COVID-19 vaccine. Even the little we know is not much. It’s likely that at least 16% of adults worldwide have skipped some medical treatment—mainly annual flu vaccines)—due to concerns about needles. An estimated quarter of these people have a legitimate fear of needles, called trypanophobia. This phobia affects their daily lives and interferes with their normal functioning.
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It is difficult to estimate the exact number of individuals who suffer from this phobia, in part because so many people choose not to seek medical attention.