The new technology helping needle-phobics drop their COVID-19 vaccination fear

When it comes to controlling COVID-19, every vaccination counts.

But what happens if you are scared of needles? Health officials are getting advice on how to deal with people who are.

Jason Blanchard was 14 when he first realised he was afraid of needles.

"I think I recognised it when I was sitting in that chair and you can't look at the needle and the heart rate starts going and you start feeling that panic set on," he told Newshub.

Blanchard's story is not uncommon. Trypanophobia is thought to affect up to 30 percent of adults.

"It's not the physical feeling, it's the thought of it," he says.

The success of the COVID-19 vaccination programme is dependent on the uptake.

The latest Ministry of Health research suggests more than 800,000 adults are unlikely or opposed to getting a vaccine.

Dr Joan Ingram says people don't want to admit they're scared.

"[Fear] could be a reason so I think it's a really important issue to think about."

The Immunisation Advisory Centre says treating needle phobia could help reduce vaccine hesitancy. It is advising medical professionals to talk to their patients to allay fears, and encourage them to bring a support person, lie down, or watch YouTube or TikTok on their phone as a distraction.

Dr Ingram says people could also do "muscle tension exercises" to reduce the chances of fainting.

Adam Hutchinson, the founder of an app called oVRcome, says its therapy could help.

"oVRcome acts as a circuit breaker really to unlearn that relationship between danger and the needle," he told Newshub.

"So they basically download the app to their smartphone and then they do virtual reality exposure therapy by putting their smartphone into our headset."

Blanchard has his own advice for those administering the COVID vaccine.

"Get it all prepped and ready to go. Nothing worse when you've got a needle phobia and they're flashing the needle around."

In the meantime, Blanchard says he going to try and find a way past the fear so when the time comes for his COVID-19 jab, he can grin and bear it.