Therapy dogs visit North Okanagan COVID-19 vaccine clinic to help calm needle anxiety

Ten-year-old Labradoodle Cooper is doing his part to make it easier for those nervous about needles to get their COVID-19 vaccines.

The St. John Ambulance therapy dog ​​spends part of the vaccination clinic at the Vernon Recreation Center every Saturday.

“We were contacted by Interior Health and asked if we could come and give people a moment of joy while they get their vaccines or afterwards just to make the experience a little bit better,” said Faye Anstey, Cooper’s handler and one Unit moderator for the local St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program.

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Anstey said on the first day of the Labradoodle, last Saturday, both staff and patients were excited to see the puppy in action.

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“The nurses said there were actually a few people who said they really appreciated having the dog there while they were getting their injection. [It’s] a bit of a distraction when they just reached down and stroked Cooper and he kissed her hand while they got the syringe, ”Anstey said.

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Registered Professional Counselor Wendy Blancher says that some levels of needle anxiety are very common and for some the phobia can be so severe that they avoid medical care.

“Therapy dogs are a great distraction. This is an evidence-based practice to put them in high anxiety situations. Therapy dogs encourage the release of many mood-boosting chemicals and calm people who are anxious and overly stressed, ”said Blancher.

Blancher said strategies for overcoming needle phobia to get an injection include using deep breathing exercises or internal mantras.

“One thing that happens very often when you’re scared is: ‘I’m scared right now. I know I can be calm ‘and repeat that to myself as a distraction instead of reading minds about how awful the experience is going to be, ”said Blancher.

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Blancher said having therapy dogs in clinics could also help when those who are vaccine-resistant come to be vaccinated.

“This group could come in with another whole range of emotions that would calm therapy dogs, people who need to be vaccinated to keep working on a job,” said Blancher.

Cooper and another therapy dog ​​will continue their Vernon visits through October.

After that, his supervisor expects further appointments in other clinics in the southern interior of the country.

“Cooper is fully vaccinated. He’s used to getting his injections so he can be there to help you, ”said Anstey.

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