Afraid of needles? Montreal's vaccination sites offer special options for people with phobias

·4 min read
Afraid of needles? Montreal's vaccination sites offer special options for people with phobias
Zootherapist Sylvain Gonthier and dog Bidule talk with a woman at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Montreal, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021.  (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Zootherapist Sylvain Gonthier and dog Bidule talk with a woman at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Montreal, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press - image credit)

While many people may experience some level of fear or anxiety when it comes to needles, some cases are worse than others.

Tara Glover, the vaccination site manager at the Gerry-Robertson Community Centre in Pierrefonds, told CBC News that she sees people coming in with these kinds of anxieties regularly.

"We know in the hospital situation, we know how fearful people are of needles, and I think that needs to be recognized," said Glover. "You know, even though for us, it's just a needle, for other people, it's not just a needle. It's a big deal."

"What we're hearing from people when they finally do come in, is that it's fear, a lot of fear that's keeping them away. Not fear of the vaccine, but fear of the vaccination process, fear of the needle, fear of the whole situation of coming here," said Glover.

That's why her vaccination centre has set up some options for people who are dealing with extra stress during their vaccination visit.

WATCH | Montreal vaccination centre brings in therapy dogs to help people overcome needle anxiety:

The Gerry-Robertson Community Centre and the Centre sportif Dollard-St-Laurent are both running zootherapy pilot projects until Sept.10, where therapy dogs help keep people calm during their appointments.

Glover has also set up a special room in her centre with aromatherapy, music, low lighting and comfortable chairs.

The private room is a place where "people who have a lot of anxiety or who want to have a private conversation about vaccination without having everybody listen to them and express their concerns to a health professional" can do so.

The CIUSSS de l'Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, which oversees the Gerry-Robertson Community Centre, told CBC News in an email that staff are "well aware that vaccination can be an anxiety-provoking exercise for some people" and that is why it has implemented "several initiatives to improve the vaccination experience."

A spokesperson for the health board explained that "people who wish to take advantage of this service need only ask when they arrive at the vaccination site and we will take all the time necessary to answer their questions and reduce their anxiety."

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press
Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

At all of the sites on the territory, a person can request to be vaccinated lying down.

Private rooms available upon request

A representative for the CIUSSS de l'Est-de-l'Île-de-Montréal told CBC News that for people approaching an appointment with extra fear or stress, "no special request is needed as we have all the necessary professionals on site to address almost every kind of situation and special need."

"After more than six months of vaccination now behind us, we can assure the population that we are fully aware of the special needs that can arise when vaccination is concerned and we can address all of those quite proficiently with specially trained members on our vaccination teams," said spokesperson Christian Merciari.

He specified that there are "special separate isolations sections if anyone feels that they should need more privacy in the vaccination process and family members are always welcomed if their presence is needed during or after the vaccination process."

All requests will be handled with discretion, the spokesperson said, and anyone can request the option to lie down at any time.

For its part, the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, which manages the vaccination centre at the Palais des congrès, said that requests can be made for special accommodation in-person or in advance by phone.

People can request to be vaccinated lying down in a separate first aid area and be accompanied by a friend or family member.

This was echoed by the CIUSSS du Nord-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, which stated in an email that staff were ready to "respond to users who have special needs."

"Our staff are used to reassuring and comforting people and as appropriate, we can adapt our practices," wrote spokesperson Marie-Hélène Giguère in an e-mail.

A spokesperson for the CIUSSS du Centre-Ouest-de-l'Ile-de-Montréal told CBC News that its clinics' private rooms are available and people can be accompanied upon request.

"We also offer stress balls that help people alleviate their anxiety," said spokesperson Barry Morgan.

"All of our vaccinators are trained to deal with many different types of situations and are experienced in helping people deal with anxiety."

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