A reason rarely given in surveys for COVID vaccine hesitancy could be why millions of Americans still are not vaccinated.

It's something called trypanophobia, or fear of needles. The National Library of Medicine published a study that shows 1 in 6 adults avoids the flu vaccine because of that fear.

In this edition of Sound Health, McLean County Health Department communicable disease coordinator Heidi German said that fear is likely contributing to COVID vaccine hesitancy at a time when health officials are concerned stalled vaccinations are leading to wider spread of the coronavirus, including the highly contagious Delta variant.

“Because we are talking about an adult population, where they are not required to get this vaccine, a fear of needles is probably a high percentage of the reason why people decide not to get this vaccine,” German said.

German said kids may be more likely to fear the needle and that could become a concern once children ages 11 and under become eligible to receive the COVID vaccine.

“The younger children, the little kids, they don’t have as much of a problem because sometimes they don’t have as much memory,” German said. “It’s that 11- or 12-year-old and up that sometimes have that bigger fear. They understand pain and a shot equals pain.”

German, who said she has administered at least 500 COVID vaccine doses this year, said those who don’t like needles will often say that as they sit down for the shot. She said vaccinators try to assure those about to get jabbed they have nothing to worry about and may not even feel it.

“A majority of the time it doesn’t hurt, it might be a small pinch,” she said, adding that distractions and deep breathing also usually help relax the person about to get a needle in the arm.

German said data on fear of needles could be hard to track because some people may not admit they are afraid to get jabbed, but she said it appears to have caused some to put off getting the vaccine until they decide to confront their fear.

“I actually had one person tell me that they had a fear of needles and it took them a long time before they were brave enough to come and do it,” German said.

COVID vaccination rates in McLean County are 52.7%. That trails the state of Illinois average of 53.7% and the national rate of 54.4% as of Sept. 13.

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