Making vaccines more acceptable--methods to prevent and minimize pain and other common adverse events associated with vaccines

Vaccine. 2001 Mar 21;19(17-19):2418-27. doi: 10.1016/s0264-410x(00)00466-7.


The growing abundance of highly immunogenic vaccines has arrived with a burden of pain, distress, and common adverse reactions that in turn may interfere with parental compliance and aggravate anti-vaccine sentiment. In a study of 150 children in each of 2 age-groups, we found that approximately 20% of the subjects suffered serious distress or worse. During the procedural phase, approximately 90% of the 15-to-18 month old children and 45% of the 4-to-6 year old children showed serious distress or worse. To address non-adherence with pediatric vaccine schedules, we must consider all of the possible issues that might prevent a parent from taking a child to a health care provider for vaccination. In that same study we identified useful predictors for both preparatory and procedural distress - predictors that might be used in identifying children who might benefit from preventive interventions. Vaccine providers might consider a variety of interventions. Attitude, empathy, instruction, and practice have all been shown to have a salutatory effect upon pain and anxiety with medical procedures in general and specifically with vaccinations. Distraction has also been found to be an effective method for distress and pain prevention in children. More formal methods of clinical hypnosis which combine a deep state of relaxation with focused imagery and suggestion have also been found to be effective in helping children and adolescents prepare for, cope with, and tolerate the pain and anxiety associated with medical procedures. So-called 'sugar nipples' delivering small amounts of sucrose orally at the time of a painful procedure in an infant has been not been shown to decrease vaccination pain and studies on refrigerant topical anesthetics are mixed. Studies have found a eutectic mixture of 2.5% lidocaine and 2.5% prilocaine (EMLA) effective in providing adequate local anesthesia in children, but it suffers from problems in practical application. Studies with various injection techniques have not identified ready solutions, and although jet injection appears to provoke less anxiety and cause less immediate pain, studies also indicate a somewhat greater incidence of delayed local reactogenicity including soreness and edema. Other measures to prevent or rapidly treat other common adverse events have been shown effective and should be considered as well.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Anaphylaxis / etiology
  • Anaphylaxis / prevention & control
  • Anesthetics, Local / administration & dosage
  • Attitude
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / etiology
  • Child Behavior Disorders / prevention & control
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Hypnosis
  • Infant
  • Massage
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / prevention & control
  • Pain Measurement
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Pressure
  • Stress, Physiological / etiology
  • Stress, Physiological / prevention & control
  • Syncope / etiology
  • Syncope / prevention & control
  • Vaccination / adverse effects
  • Vaccination / instrumentation
  • Vaccination / methods
  • Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Vaccines / adverse effects*
  • Vaccines, Combined / administration & dosage
  • Vaccines, Combined / adverse effects


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Vaccines
  • Vaccines, Combined