Supporting people with learning disabilities and a fear of needles to receive the COVID-19 vaccine
Intended for healthcare professionals
Evidence and practice    

Supporting people with learning disabilities and a fear of needles to receive the COVID-19 vaccine

Neena Kochhar Senior community learning disability nurse, Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare NHS Trust, London, England
Rachel Straiton Senior positive behaviour specialist, Hounslow Adult Learning Disability Health Team, Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare NHS Trust, Hounslow, England

Why you should read this article:
  • To recognise the need to proactively address the barriers to accessing healthcare that people with learning disabilities may experience

  • To learn about the development of a desensitisation programme for people with learning disabilities and a fear of needles to support them to receive the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine

  • To consider interventions that you could implement in your practice to support people with learning disabilities to access healthcare interventions

Many people with learning disabilities have a fear of needles and as a result they find receiving injections and vaccinations challenging. Therefore, community learning disability nurses and positive behaviour support practitioners developed a desensitisation programme with the aim of supporting people with learning disabilities who had a needle phobia to receive coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines. Additionally, reasonable adjustments were made for five individuals who did not have a fear of needles but required a home visit with familiar healthcare professionals who they felt comfortable with. Of the 24 people who engaged in the desensitisation programme, 88% (n=21) received all doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 80% (n=4) of five people who were provided with reasonable adjustments received all doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. This article discusses how and why the desensitisation programme was developed, what worked well, the challenges encountered and other areas where the approaches used could be implemented to support people with learning disabilities with accessing other healthcare interventions.

Learning Disability Practice. doi: 10.7748/ldp.2024.e2235

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software

Correspondence

neena.kochhar1@nhs.net

Conflict of interest

None declared

Kochhar N, Straiton R (2024) Supporting people with learning disabilities and a fear of needles to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Learning Disability Practice. doi: 10.7748/ldp.2024.e2235

Acknowledgements

The authors thank the nursing and positive behaviour support teams and the authors’ service manager for their support and help with the desensitisation programme

Published online: 17 January 2024

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