Nova Scotia

Therapy dogs to help people with needle anxiety at COVID-19 vaccine clinic

A COVID-19 vaccination clinic happening Thursday in Spryfield, N.S., will use therapy dogs to help create a calming and supportive environment for people who have needle anxiety.

'There's lots of people out there who have anxiety around vaccines,' says doctor helping run clinic

Patricia Marson is comforted by therapy dog Cleo as she receives a COVID-19 vaccine at the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Boston on Dec. 30, 2020. A Thursday afternoon vaccination clinic in Spryfield, N.S., will have therapy dogs on hand to help people who have needle anxiety. (Elise Amendola/Associated Press)

A COVID-19 vaccination clinic happening Thursday in Spryfield, N.S., will use therapy dogs to help create a calming and supportive environment for people who have needle anxiety.

The event is happening from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. local time at Dalhousie University's family medicine clinic at the Spryfield Wellness Centre.

The idea for the clinic came from a young man with Down syndrome who has a fear of needles, said Dr. Karen McNeil, a family doctor who works at the teaching clinic.

"We should acknowledge that there is not only this gentleman, there's lots of people out there who have anxiety around vaccines," she said.

The drop-in clinic is for people 12 and over looking for a first or second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Karen McNeil is helping run today's vaccination clinic. (Submitted by Dr. Karen McNeil)

McNeil said the clinic previously hosted clinics for the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines, and appointments were spaced five to six minutes apart. For this clinic, the gap will be 15 minutes, she said.

McNeil said the people working at the clinic will understand the anxiety the vaccine recipients are facing, will answer any questions they have, and give them the necessary time so they are comfortable to go ahead with the process.

The clinic will be administering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

"I think people are coming and not expecting that someone is going to want to poke them and then send them back out to recovery where they spend their 15 minutes waiting," she said.

As part of helping make people feel comfortable, there will be therapy dogs and handlers present from St. John Ambulance.

McNeil said the clinic is meant for people with needle anxiety, not needle phobia, which is a much more extreme fear of needles. Neither is it for people who are comfortable with the vaccination process.

She said around 10 per cent of the population has anxiety around getting vaccinated, which is largely contained to individuals in their late teens to late 30s.

What people need to bring to the clinic

To get vaccinated, people are asked to bring their ID and health card, if they have one.

For people getting second shots, 28 days must have passed since their first dose of Moderna or AstraZeneca, or 21 days if their first vaccination was Pfizer.

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