Go to main content
BPS News

Supporting children with their feelings about needles can help those who want a Covid-19 vaccine to be protected, say psychologists

22 March 2022

Supporting parents and carers to manage all children’s feelings about needles could help children who want a Covid-19 vaccination to get one, say psychologists, after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommended that children aged five and over in the UK are offered a Covid-19 vaccine.

With 50-60 per cent of children experiencing more fear than expected about needles, compared to 10 per cent of adults, it’s likely that many children have chosen not to receive their Covid-19 vaccine so far because either they, or their parents or carers, are worried about the experience.

It’s hoped the guidance produced by the BPS will ensure that no child who wants a Covid-19 vaccine is unable to be protected because of worries around needles, and will make the entire process of receiving a vaccination smoother for all involved.

As well as the Covid-19 vaccination, the guidance is also aimed at supporting routine medical procedures such as standard childhood vaccinations and blood tests.

It encourages honest communication about what is going to happen, allowing young people’s feelings to arise and gives advice on how to help them feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible by also ensuring that the child or young person is given choices about aspects they can control.

Fiona Mackay, lead author of the guidance, said:  

“The resources are intended to support children and young people to manage any worries related to accessing vaccinations and other medical procedures that might involve the use of needles.

We hope they will help prepare all involved when a child or young person is having a health procedure that requires the use of needles, especially where there is not an alternative method available.

These resources are suitable for using with everyone aged 5-18, whether big or small worries (or other feelings) may be present or not.

We encourage being completely honest about what will happen, having a calm adult on hand to support if possible and allowing the child or young person to experience whatever feelings may be present.

It’s important, when providing non-judgmental support, to allow screaming or crying as needed, avoiding comments that equate fear of pain to gender stereotypes or personality traits, and to help the child or young person to focus on what they are able to control, such as relaxation methods and making choices that allow them to feel as comfortable as possible.”

The four documents, produced by the BPS Division of Clinical Psychology’s Public Health and Prevention Sub-committee in collaboration with its Faculty for Children, Young People and their Families and supported by the School and Public Health Nurses Association and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, are all available to read on the BPS website:


Top of page