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27 Dec, 2021 16:49

Health Minister promotes VR for the vaccine-anxious

Health departments in the Netherlands are using virtual reality headsets to calm nervous vaccination patients
Health Minister promotes VR for the vaccine-anxious

Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge is encouraging those with hang-ups about needles to avail of virtual reality to distract them from the jab. The VR headsets display soothing nature scenes while workers administer the shot.

“Do you suffer from injection anxiety, but still want the (booster) injection?” de Jonge tweeted on Monday. “The [Municipal Health Service] is happy to help you. For example, there are more and more locations where they work with VR glasses that make it easier to relax during the injection.”

The novel use of VR technology was first rolled out by Dutch health centers earlier this year. In one example from Rotterdam, patients can swim with dolphins or walk with elephants during the brief procedure. 

“They are so busy with the virtual experience around them that they even forget they’re being vaccinated,” Robbert Brouwer, co-founder of medical VR company SyncVR Medical, said. 

Other municipal health centers have used lower-tech methods to soothe anxiety over the jab. In the town of Veghel, nervous patients can receive their shot in a private room with a  comfortable couch, fake window, and fishing on a TV screen. 

Whether they received their doses with or without the aid of virtual reality, 85% of Dutch adults are fully vaccinated, and just over 16% have received a third booster dose, according to figures from the government. Despite the high uptake, cases of Covid-19 have skyrocketed in recent months, going from an average of 1,600 per day at the beginning of October to an average of more than 21,000 per day at the start of December. They have since fallen to just under 12,000 as of Monday, still higher than at any point before November.

Despite the spiking case numbers, the death toll from the virus has not risen to anywhere near its April 2020 peak, which saw a record 232 people die in one day. Twelve deaths were reported on Monday, with an average of 35 people dying per day in the week beforehand.