COVID-19 vaccine anxiety: info and coping mechanisms
New Zealand's COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan is well underway. As we approach a new transition period in our fight against the virus, new concerns are naturally arising. Many are reporting vaccine-related anxiety. This is understandable – uncertainty is a common trigger for anxiety.
Vaccine concerns are normal and valid. It is understandable that you may want to appraise the situation and gather available information before making any vaccine related decisions. Misinformation from unreliable sources can encourage anxiety. It is important when searching for information on New Zealand’s vaccine plan to use trusted and reliable sources. Primary care doctors and credible health websites are good sources of information, while headlines and personal opinions on social media may be less reliable. With that in mind, we have searched reliable sources and compiled information below.
Why should I get the vaccine?
Getting vaccinated is one of the best ways you can protect yourself and your whānau from getting COVID-19 and limit the spread of the disease.
You might feel anxious about when you will be able to get the vaccine, particularly if you are more at risk of contracting the virus or responding poorly should you get the virus. What is the NZ vaccine rollout plan?
The vaccine is free and equitable - available to everyone in Aotearoa aged 16 and over. It is voluntary, not mandatory; you cannot be forced to get vaccinated. According to the Ministry of Health, New Zealand’s vaccine plan is to:
put safety first with all COVID-19 vaccines
secure enough safe and effective vaccines to protect Aotearoa and the Pacific
protect Māori, Pacific peoples, and other groups at greater risk of COVID-19
make it easy for people to get vaccinated
ensure we are prepared for future outbreaks
support New Zealand’s contribution to global wellbeing.
The plan prioritises people most at risk of harm if they get the virus and those who live and work in places where they are most likely to pick up COVID-19. Health Navigator NZ listed four main groups:
Group 1 is the border and managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) workers, their household contacts and the people they live with. Group 2 is the frontline workers and people living in high-risk settings, such as healthcare workers on community frontlines or protecting our most vulnerable people, and some priority populations, including people living in the Counties Manukau DHB district who are 65 years and older, or have an underlying health condition. Group 3 is people at higher risk if they catch COVID-19, such as older adults and people with underlying health conditions or disabilities. Group 4 is the rest of the general population.
Groups 1, 2, and 3 are underway, while group 4 is expected to begin vaccinations in July. The plan is to be slow and steady with vaccine rollout.
I’m concerned about vaccine safety and effectiveness.
New Zealand is using the Pfizer vaccine. Before vaccines are provided to the community, they must be approved by Medsafe. Medsafe is responsible for the regulation of medicines, and is a part of the Ministry of Health. Medsafe only approves a vaccine when they are satisfied it’s safe and effective enough to use, based data about the vaccine.
I’m wondering what it will be like to get the vaccine.
You need 2 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, each given at least 21 days apart. Vaccinations will be available at a range of locations, including pop-up centres, GPs, Māori and Pacific healthcare providers, mobile clinics and community clinics. The aim is for the vaccine to be easily accessible.
I want to get the vaccine, but I have a fear of needles.
This is common, you are not alone in feeling this way. It may be helpful to focus on the benefits of getting the vaccine to motivate yourself to be brave and get it done. Tell the health practitioner who is administering your shot about your fears beforehand. They may be able to explain the steps, count down, and so on, to give you a greater sense of control. If you feel faint, tense your muscles or make a fist. You may even ask if you can get the shot lying down.
You don’t need to look at the needle, that will likely increase your anxiety, so look away. Distraction can help. Listen to a song or watch a video on your phone, practice deep breathing, or tune into your senses – what can you see, hear, smell, touch, or taste?
References and further reading