Taking the pain out of protection

Gary Finnegan

Gary Finnegan

November 3rd, 2015

Gary Finnegan

‘No pain, no gain? When it comes to immunisation, most of us accept a little pinch in return for protection against infectious diseases. But a new WHO report says there are ways to limit the discomfort, anxiety and pain that can accompany injections.’

EU-puts-spotlight-on-childhood-immunisationNo matter how keen you may be to have your children immunised against pertussis, mumps or measles, anyone who has ever brought a child for the recommended vaccines will know it can be unpleasant.

It can be distressing for child and parent alike, potentially making the child wary of doctors or needles. In some cases, this may even discourage people from attending follow-up appointments for important childhood vaccines.

The World Health Organisation says parents and doctors can take steps to take the sting out of immunisation.

For example, it advises health professionals to use neutral words – such as “here I go” rather than “here comes the sting” – and avoid language that increases anxiety or is falsely reassuring. Saying ‘This will only hurt for a second’ is a bad idea unless it’s true!

Many of the tips sound like common sense but it is helpful to have them grouped together for busy parents and health professionals to review.

  • The parent or caregiver should be present throughout and after the vaccination procedure
  • Infants and children aged less than three years should be held by caregivers throughout the procedure
  • Children older than three years should be seated, preferably on the caregiver’s lap
  • If culturally acceptable, breastfeeding of infants should be done during or shortly before vaccination
  • Where oral vaccines are being given in the same consultation, it would be best to give oral rotavirus vaccine, then oral polio (where it is used), then breastfeeding while injectable vaccines are given
  • When multiple vaccines are injected in the same session, they should be given in order of increasing painfulness.

Have you any tips for other parents about how to distract or comfort children during vaccination visits?  Use the comments section below.

There is advice for adult vaccination too. Distraction using breathing interventions can be effective, according to the WHO paper. However, distractions appear not be so effective for adolescents and more research is needed in this area.

Of course, it should go without saying that the brief and relatively mild discomfort associated with vaccination is considerably less severe than the suffering that vaccine-preventable diseases can cause.

And that’s why the vast majority of us in Europe have our kids immunised!


  1. E.G. Smith

    E.G. Smith

    November 29th, 2015

    My sister is very lookwarm about vaccinating her little 1year old girl. I’m very pro vaccines for everyone. I think she is trusting the herd immunization but I’m really concerned specially with all the travelling we all do and all the various cultures who move everywhere. Can anyone help me? Thank you