Vaccination Pain Management in Children

A Twitter Chat with Dr. Christine Chambers (@DrCChambers) and Dr. Denise Harrison (@dharrisonCHEO).

Participating in the Twitter chat requires a Twitter account; if you do not already have one you can create an account at Once you have an account contributing is straightforward:

  • Go to your Twitter account
  • Follow the discussion by searching for #ebnjc and click on “All Tweets”
  • Add the EBN chat hash tag (#ebnjc) to your tweets to join in

Amidst the recent outbreaks of infectious diseases (e.g., measles), the decision to vaccinate or not is one that has received considerable public and media attention. Parents’ worries about the links between vaccines and autism (and other harms) continue to be fuelled by misinformation and ill-informed celebrities, despite the fact that these claims have been totally disproven by research evidence and experts.

However, the pain and fear associated with vaccinations is an often overlooked barrier that can affect willingness to vaccinate. One in 10 children and adults has a significant fear of needles that cause them to avoid going to the doctor and receive proper medical care. The majority of these individuals can trace their fear back to one poorly managed painful procedure as a child.

Fortunately, there is now strong evidence supporting the efficacy of various pain management strategies for needle pain in children. Research has shown that various pharmacological (e.g., topical local anaesthetic creams, breastfeeding and sugar water for infants), psychological (e.g., distraction, deep breathing), and physical (e.g., holding infants upright front-front and having older children sit rather than lie down) strategies significantly reduce pain and distress from procedures like vaccinations. Despite the fact that these pain management strategies have been recommended in clinical practice guidelines, fewer than 5% of children receive any kind of pain management for procedures like vaccinations. This is a problem because research shows that poorly managed painful procedures early in life can change the way children’s bodies and brains response to pain, making them more vulnerable to later pain.

So why aren’t children getting pain management for these types of procedures? Join us for our Twitter Chat on May 6th to discuss vaccination pain management in children. The chat is appropriate for health professionals, researchers, parents, and the public. We will explore topics such as the different types of pain management available, barriers and successes, and strategies for making pain management for vaccination a health priority.

We will also share our own research and experiences translating our research into evidence-based resources for parents and the public.

These include the “It Doesn’t Have to Hurt” video series led by Dr. Chambers in the Centre for Pediatric Pain Research. ( The series includes a fun 2 minute YouTube video for parents called: “It Doesn’t Have to Hurt: Strategies for Helping Children with Shots and Needles”. In the video, a cute 4 year old girl shares with parents what they should – and shouldn’t – do to help make needles hurt less. All the tips are based on research, including some of our own.

The “Be Sweet to Babies” initiative by Dr. Harrison research (Facebook: also includes a brief You Tube video for parents called “The secret to a calm and peaceful vaccination ( another video series produced in multiple languages showing effective pain management in newborn infants during blood sampling ( The pain reduction strategies shown in these videos are also based on high quality research evidence.

We will be posing these questions throughout our chat:

Q1: Do you use pain management for vaccination for infants and children? What do you use?
Q2: Do you use breastfeeding or sucrose for vaccination pain in babies?
Q3: How about psychological strategies like distraction?
Q4: Do you use topical anaesthestics?
Q5: If you have experienced barriers to pain management for vaccination, what are they?
Q6: Have you had any positive experiences with pain management for vaccination?
Q7: How can we make pain management for vaccination a priority?

We look forward to seeing you on Twitter and hearing your responses to these questions!

Christine Chambers (PhD, RPsych) and Denise Harrison (RN, RM (Australia), PhD).

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