One of the main reasons you might be hesitant to be vaccinated is because you are scared of needles. Known as "needlephobia", it is a common fear that might give you anxiety around getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Here are ten tips to help you face your fears and become vaccinated against COVID-19.

1. Drink plenty of water

Keep your blood sugar up and drink plenty of water before you go. This lowers your chance of dizziness and gives your body less to stress about. 

Young person drinking water while looking out a window

2. Go with a Support Person

Go with a support person like a friend or family member. You can now book group appointments together, or just ask them to come with you for support (this is allowed in several places now). Talk to them about how they can support you. Maybe you want them to hold your hand? Talk to you while you’re getting your needle to distract you? Affirm you afterwards? 

There are also supported access pop-up clinics to help a range of people get vaccinated, including people with medical anxiety or needlephobia. Bookings are recommended to ensure your needs are met.

3. Plan a distraction

Plan a distraction. This could include: 

  • A stress ball or fidget spinner 
  • Learning a deep breathing technique (headspace has some guides
  • Try a mental technique like visualisation or grounding (you can find simple YouTube videos explaining these) 

4. Numb the pain

If you’re concerned about pain, go to your pharmacist for a topical anaesthetic (that means an anaesthetic you can put on your skin, like a patch or a cream). There are some that you can buy over the counter without a prescription. 

5. Chat to your nurse

Get to know your nurse. Chatting to them can help distract you, and they’re all really nice folks who want you to have a good experience!

A young person talking to a nurse in a treatment room

6. Let the health professional know you're nervous

Let your nurse know you’re anxious. Pro tip: sometimes this means you get jellybeans after. 

7. Tell the nurse what you prefer

You can ask your nurse to either tell you or not tell you when they’ll inject you, depending on what helps you. Try to breathe out as the needle goes in – this stops your heart racing and keeps you from tensing up. 

8. Vaccines are administered quickly!

Know that vaccines are administered really quickly! The actual needle will be the shortest part of your vaccine experience. Needles are stressful because we’re anticipating pain, so it can help to keep this in mind. 

9. Treat. Your. Self.

Plan something to do afterwards to reward yourself, and have a brag! Show off your bandaid or vaccine sticker. Being proud of yourself and reflecting on what helped you this time can help reduce your anxiety response to future needles. And you just did a great thing for yourself and your community, which should be celebrated! 

Close up of an arm with a vaccine bandaid, with a heart drawn around it

10. Support is available

Consider a casual chat to a counsellor, as they can offer you personalised advice. Many free youth mental health services are available over the phone or online to talk about things that are causing you stress, and being nervous about a needle is totally valid. Your school counsellor is also a good option. 

You might also like to talk to a trusted health professional like a GP about how you’re feeling. GPs can provide basic counselling and provide reassurance. If they provide COVID-19 vaccines at their clinic, ask what they can offer you to make you feel more comfortable - for example, booking a longer appointment time for your vaccination. Check out our guide for talking to a health professional about COVID-19 vaccines for more information.

Still not convinced?

There are needle-free options on the way for children and young people, but they are still going through trials.

For more information and tips, visit the Murdoch Children's Research Institute website.

This article was written and last updated on 5 November 2021.