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A patient enjoys a VR experience in Rotterdam, while being jabbed against COVID-19, Source: Municipality of Rotterdam

Rotterdam entertains patients with VR to alleviate vaccination fears

Rotterdam entertains patients with VR to alleviate vaccination fears

A trial aims to overcome people’s fears of getting the lifesaving shot

Medical innovation in Rotterdam promises to make COVID-19 vaccination a much more pleasant experience, thanks to virtual reality (VR). Local authorities of the second Dutch city reported on Monday of the start of a trial by GGD Rotterdam-Rijnmond (a public health service) and Erasmus Medical Centre, for the use of VR glasses during vaccination against coronavirus. The objective - reduce the fear of getting the vaccine by putting patients into a more pleasant, albeit virtual experience.

Innovation to boost Covid-19 vaccination

The virtual reality glasses used in the trial are provided by SyncVR Medical in Rotterdam – a VR platform for the healthcare industry. They project soothing images aimed to put people in a virtual world and distract them from the actual shot – this might involve swimming with dolphins or walking among elephants. The experience is usually so engaging, that the patient forgets he is being pricked, the company representatives explained.

Currently, the trial is only conducted at one pop-up location at Erasmus Medical Centre, at the reception which is open Monday to Friday, from 09:00 to 16:00.

According to the regional manager of GGD Mario Papilaja, the fear of needles is one of the reasons that people do not get vaccinated. Thus, the use of VR glasses is aimed to determine whether this obstacle can be overcome and what effect this has on people. Should the trial prove successful, the three partners will study the possibility to expand it to other locations.

And the chances that it will work are good. According to the developer, the glasses have been used successfully many times before: from relieving pain, anxiety and stress reduction to rehabilitation and training of staff. That is an insight gained from their experiences with all Rotterdam hospitals and 120 healthcare institutions throughout Europe.

According to the latest available RIVM data, as of 14 November, The Netherlands boasts a 84.7% vaccination rate (people aged 18 or older who have received two shots) - whereas for Rotterdam-Rijnmond region the figure is only 75%.

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