Ontario Students help develop strategy for coping with vaccine pain and fear of needles

Multi-ethnic teenage students on steps of school building.

Medical researchers have teamed up with some southern Ontario students to come up with ways to manage the pain and fear associated with vaccinations.

Researchers at the University of Toronto and the Hospital for Sick Children dub it the CARD System, which is an acronym for Comfort, Ask, Relax, and Distract. They say these four strategies can make a big difference in the amount of pain and anxiety a young person might feel when faced with a needle.

A clinical trial involving Grade 7 students at 10 Niagara Region schools helped shape the game, in which nurses ask each student to choose one or more cards they’d like to play to help them cope.

A student may choose category “A” and ask to be vaccinated in a private place, or “D” and bring an electronic device to distract them during injection.

Plant High School seniors Catarina Sterlacci, left, and Leigh Gabriely, right, place flowers on the sidewalk in front of their school to show support for the shooting victims Friday, Feb. 16, 2018 in Tampa, Fla. (James Borchuck/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Researchers say the trial saw reduced fear and dizziness, and fewer children returning to the clinic after vaccination with associated symptoms. The Niagara Region has since implemented the CARD system in all of its schools.

The findings were published in an open source edition of Paediatrics & Child Health, the official journal of the Canadian Paediatric Society.

Lead author Anna Taddio, a researcher at the U of T and scientist at SickKids, says fear of needles can cause some young people to refuse vaccination, and even deter them from health-care services throughout their life.