Resources and strategies for managing fear of needles and vaccination pain.

Needle fears are common. Greater than 60% of children, 20-50% of adolescents, and 20-30% of adults report some degree of needle fear. Approximately 5-10% of individuals avoid vaccines because of fear of needles.

We have science-backed strategies to effectively reduce vaccine pain and manage needle fears.

Dr. Katie Birnie spoke with Everett, a 15-year-old from Calgary, in this podcast with Alberta Health Services about strategies to manage pain and needle fears for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Katie Birnie was interviewed on the CBC Eyeopener and CBC Radio Active about how you can effectively manage needle fears and vaccination pain.


Dr. Katie Birnie and Erin Pols, a registered nurse, answer live Q & A questions about needles and needle fears through Telus Spark Tools on Tuesday series (February 2, 2021).  

Alam, H. (January 7, 2021). Fear of needles may keep some people from getting COVID-19 vaccine, experts say. CTV News.

Kost, H. (December 14, 2020). How to conquer the fear of needles in time for COVID-19 vaccine. CBC News. 

Research Evidence, Clinical Practice and Policy Recommendations

Clinical Practice Guideline on management of vaccination pain from birth to adulthood

Canadian Medical Association Journal (2015)


Clinical Practice Guideline on management of needle fears from birth to adulthood

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (2016)


Recommendations based on the clinical practice guidelines above

World Health Organization (2015)


Resources for Needle Fears for Adults, Children, and Health Professionals

Workbook for adults to overcome fear of blood, needles, doctors and dentists

Martin A. Antony, PhD and Mark A. Watling, MD


Online interactive modules to overcome anxiety, including for fear of needles

My Anxiety Plan from Anxiety Canada

https://bit.ly/3me6Yj8 (for Adults)

https://bit.ly/3mfbei6 (for Children and Teens)

Needle fears and muscle tension strategy for needle related fainting

Handouts on Immunize Canada website created by the Pediatric Pain, Health and Communication Lab, University of Guelph

Needle fears

Muscle tension for fainting

Resources for Needle Pain Management for Adults, Children, and Health Professionals

Resources for children, parents, adults, and health professionals

Suite of handouts, videos, and other resources on Immunize Canada


1-pager for parents summarizing what strategies to do before, during, and after the needle

Parents Canada (2015)


It Doesn’t Have to Hurt YouTube Video

Viewed over 275,000 times, this video shares evidence-based pain management for needle procedures with kids. Available in English/French and subtitled in 18 different languages.

It Doesn’t Have to Hurt (2013)


#ItDoesntHaveToHurt is a social media initiative to improve parents’ awareness and use of evidence-based information about children’s pain.

Read more: 

Latest article in partnership with Solutions for Kids in Pain (SKIP) and YMC:

“More Than Ever Vaccines Are Crucial But My Daughter Is Terrified of Needles” (2020)


Fear of needles: 5 simple ways to ease vaccination pain for your child (and yourself)

Article on the Conversation Canada (April 2020)


The CARDTM system teaches pain management strategies for school-based immunization clinics for families, youth, and health professionals

C-Comfort, A-Ask, R-Relax, D-Distract

CanVax (2019)


Resources for the Media

Positive vaccination images that are medically accurate, inclusive, and free to download

“The stock photography commonly used in stories about vaccines are often medically inaccurate in a range of ways, from showing the wrong syringes to showing shots being administered incorrectly… imagery that’s frightening and inaccurate only further perpetuates the idea that vaccines are just scary, painful, and something both parents and their children dread.”

SELF (2019)


*Blog header image credited from this source.


How two Canadian initiatives are advancing children’s pain research and practice. Interview by Sim Jhutti. PainBC Pain Waves Podcast.

Canada is known as a world leader in children’s pain research, yet it often takes a long time for emerging evidence to make its way into standard clinical practice.


Birnie, K.A. (2020, February 29).