Does it hurt?
A global pandemic rages. The COVID-19 death toll – 2.35 million worldwide, 6,600-plus in Japan – is only part of the story. The medical, economic, social and psychological impact is beyond measure and likely to linger for years. Still, the first barrier has been breached. Vaccines a year in development are at last being rolled out, belatedly in Japan but due to begin this month, medical workers being first in line. Next: senior citizens 65 and over, beginning in April. Then, finally, the population at large. There’s hope. The worst may be over.
Hope, and fear. Does it hurt? It’s a long, rather thick needle the process requires. It doesn’t look painless.
Relax, says Weekly Playboy (Feb 22).
The story behind the long needle is this. There are two types of injections: intramuscular and subcutaneous. An intramuscular injection uses a long needle to deliver medication deep into the muscles, allowing it to be absorbed into the bloodstream quickly. A subcutaneous (literally “under the skin”) injection delivers the medication into the tissue layer between skin and muscle. A short needle will do – but absorption into the bloodstream takes longer.
Vaccines developed in Japan, Weekly Playboy explains, are generally injected subcutaneously with a needle 1.3 cm in length. The three coronavirus vaccines at issue here are imports, their developers Pfizer-BioNtech (U.S.-Germany), Moderna (U.S.) and Oxford-AstraZeneca (UK). They are injected intramuscularly. The needle must be 2.5 cm long.
The Japanese aren’t used to it – at least not for routine vaccinations, though sufferers of certain illnesses like hepatitis-B will be familiar with it. To uninitiated Japanese eyes, it looks frighteningly long. It looks, in short, like it will hurt.
The internet bristles with confirmation that it does. The internet bristles with confirmation and denial of just about anything. Fear spreads more easily than most emotions. Is it well grounded?
To find out, Weekly Playboy sent a reporter, who it names only as “Koyama,” to a Tokyo clinic for direct intramuscular confirmation.
We’re not told what if anything he’s injected with – presumably not the coronavirus vaccine, which isn’t available yet. “Relax,” says the doctor, brandishing the needle. Koyama cringes. It really is long – thick too, he (or she) thinks. Koyama breaks out in a sweat. Really, making your way in the world as a reporter involves some pretty bumpy traveling.
The injection is done at the point where the shoulder meets the arm – a zone rich in muscles and therefore suitable. “Relax,” says the doctor again. The needle enters slowly, deep, deeper. Then – it’s over. The needle is out before Koyama is even aware of it. The entire procedure has take all of five seconds. Did it hurt? Hardly at all. Over the next two or three days there was a bit of swelling, a slight ache, a trifle of numbness. That’s all. Imagine the relief.
It’s not guaranteed to always go that smoothly. Most vulnerable, the magazine hears from its medical sources, are those over 65 – women especially – whose muscles in the region in question have softened. In that case it can be painful, at worst debilitatingly so for an unspecified time. Doctors and nurses will have to hone their judgment over the next two months. An alternative, when appropriate, is a thigh injection.
All in all, however, Weekly Playboy declares the fears overblown. Let hope prevail.© Japan Today