By Dr. Max Gomez

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — You’ve heard of incentives some states are using to increase their vaccination rates, from lotteries to free beer to marijuana, but none of these approaches deals with one big reason people aren’t getting vaccinated — fear of needles.

But as CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reports, there’s a little device that can help overcome needle-phobia.

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A map shows only 16 states have vaccinated more than half their population.

Maybe it’s because a recent survey found that 52% of unvaccinated respondents have moderate to high needle fear.

“I fight or flight or faint, so I get a little bit woozy and I feel nervous and it’s, it’s just a really rough time,” Claire Hoyle said.

That fear of needles kept Hoyle from getting vaccinated for a long time.

Dr. Amy Baxter is a pediatric emergency medicine physician who’s studied needle-phobia and how to overcome it. It turns out a number of studies suggest a combination of cold and vibration helps a lot.

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Buzzy is a device that can help people who are afraid of needles. (Credit: CBS2)

“When you put the ice and the vibration together, what you’re doing is confusing the nerves and blocking the transmission of the signal. And because it’s a very stimulating frequency, it actually blocks the fainting response as well,” Baxter said.

That’s how she came up with Buzzy — a cute gizmo with serious science behind it. A little gel pack from the freezer supplies the cold, and Buzzy vibrates at just the right frequency to interfere with nerve signals. Then, right before the shot, move Buzzy up the arm to keep blocking the nerve signals. As many as 50 independent studies have validated this approach.


“I will get blood drawn now. I could get a flu shot. I would do anything now that I have the Buzzy to help me out,” Hoyle said.

Buzzy costs about $40 for home use or $100 for medical locations, and it’s available online or at some pharmacies. It could be money well spent if it gets you to take a life-saving vaccine.

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For more information about Buzzy, click here.

Dr. Max Gomez