Each night it’s the same. Story after story on the TV news is about the covid vaccination effort, and they are all illustrated with footage of needles sinking into exposed upper arms.

Could those visuals, ostensibly making this all seem routine, backfire?

More than causing squeamish people to look away or change the channel, researchers say such illustrations could hamper efforts to get a broad swath of US residents vaccinated.

Bottom line: Many people don’t like needles, and that could further slow vaccination efforts as winter turns to spring when supplies are expected to multiply and efforts to get the hesitant to sign up for a dose will intensify.

“Fear of needles was one of the barriers that was a significant predictor of people saying, ‘I don’t think I will get this vaccine,’” said Jeanine Guidry, an assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who researches visual communication and conducted a survey of 500 people in July.

And it’s not just TV news using what could be sensitive video footage.

Disinformation spread on social media often incorporates images of giant syringes, Guidry recently told the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations to federal health officials. Social media has been a source of much incorrect information about vaccines in general, and covid specifically, designed to dissuade people from getting shots.

Such “fear visuals,” Guidry said, “get more attention,” and may be remembered longer than other types of illustrations.

Legitimate efforts to encourage vaccination may have also inadvertently sparked fear by showing exaggeratedly large syringes, said Guidry, who urged public health experts to be careful with their messages, too.

“If you use a picture of a huge syringe that looks twice the size of my head, that makes you go, ‘OK, that’s big,’” said Guidry. “I can’t fathom what that would do to someone who has a needle phobia.”

Even attempts to reassure people by showing leaders such as Dr. Anthony Fauci or the president and vice president getting their covid vaccinations on TV can be triggering, said Hillel Hoffmann, an independent communications consultant and freelance writer in Philadelphia.

“I always turn away,” said Hoffmann, who recently wrote of his near lifelong fear of needles in a piece for Medicalbag, an online publication aimed at physicians.

“I know those pictures are supposed to psych me up for the fact that the vaccine is safe and available, and I’m not worried at all about the vaccines’ safety,” said Hoffmann. “But what I can’t take because of my fear of needles is looking at a picture of someone with a small-bore needle buried in their deltoid muscle.”

Public health experts say it’s important to get at least 70% to 80% of the public vaccinated to reach what is called herd immunity, when enough people will either have had the covid virus or a vaccination, to severely limit its further spread.

But fear of needles contributes to some people’s vaccine hesitancy.

An analysis of a broad range of studies from the US and other countries on this topic by researchers at the University of Michigan showed that 20% to 30% of adults studied cited concern about needles, ranging from mild anxiety to a phobia strong enough to keep some from seeking medical care. Even many health care workers cited a fear of needles, according to the research, published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing in August 2018.

“There’s a perception that people who work in hospitals would be less afraid of needles, because they’re surrounded by them all the time, but one study found 27% of hospital employees who did not take the flu vaccine said it was because of needle fear or they did not like needles,” said Jennifer McLenon, an infection preventionist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit who completed the study while getting her master’s degree in epidemiology.