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The Tool Helping Autistic People Navigate The World Of Vaccinations

Autism New Zealand has announced the launch of Vaximate, an online tool that supports autistic people looking to get vaccinated. The series of digital guides arrive after the charity noticed an increase in reports of members of their community struggling to navigate the process of vaccinations during the current Covid-19 outbreak in New Zealand.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects cognitive, sensory, and social processing, changing the way people see the world and how they relate to others. As an autistic person may have a strong need for routine and be hyper-reactive to sensory inputs such as sounds, sights and new environments, medical and clinical environments can cause increased stress and concern.

Autism New Zealand chief executive, Dane Dougan says the organisation has received feedback about the barriers autistic people face when it comes to having a vaccination.

“Two of the most common reasons we hear that autistic people are resistant to getting a vaccination – and we’re talking about any vaccination, not just Covid-19 – are needle phobia and having to navigate an unfamiliar environment. Routine is a key coping mechanism; knowing what’s going to happen ahead of time helps people to navigate the ‘everyday’ and to feel safe.

“We developed Vaximate to take people through the process step by step so they feel comfortable and are able follow it no matter where they get vaccinated. We want to take away any barriers and the fear out of the experience, which can be overwhelming for our autism community to ensure that any autistic person is fully equipped to receive a vaccine if they want one,” says Dougan.

The Vaximate tool is housed on Autism New Zealand’s Facebook and Instagram pages and includes videos and step-by-step guides. From making appointments, to what to expect afterwards, the entire vaccination process is outlined and Vaximate also has tips to stay calm plus a link to videos that can be used as an additional coping tool while going through the vaccination process.

Chanelle Moriah is an autistic adult with a needle phobia and says Vaximate would have been helpful for her when she went to get a vaccination.

“The experience of getting immunised was quite stressful,” says Chanelle. “Having something like Vaximate to take me through the steps of the vaccination process and help me prepare would have really calmed my nerves. It’s definitely a beneficial tool.”

Dougan says Autism New Zealand recognise how important it is that those with autism and their support network understand the process and are able to get vaccinated if they choose.

“We encourage all Kiwis to support autistic people to get prepared for a vaccination. The pandemic has massively disrupted all out lives, but for autistic people this can have a severe impact on their sense of security and have some potentially serious consequences for their mental health. Vaximate is bringing back routine and clarity and a feeling of safety to help our community get vaccinated.”

The Vaximate tool can be found on Autism New Zealand’s Facebook and Instagram pages and has been funded by the Ministry of Health.

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