OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Promote vaccination by preventing pain

Needle-fearing adults (63% of Gen Z!) vaccinate less. We'll use proven pain + fear reducing tech to treat & prevent needle fear worldwide.

Photo of Amy Baxter

Written by

Describe what you intend to do and how you'll do it in one sentence (required 250 Characters)

Lifelong needle fear starts at age 4-6 from trauma with boosters; 8% then don't vaccinate their own kids. Pain Care Labs will adapt proven Buzzy needle pain & fear relief for any environment and create cross-cultural Pain-Fear-Focus education kits.

Explain the idea (less than 2,000 characters)

1. The challenge is to support vaccinators to reduce pain and fear in preschoolers, preventing vaccination from becoming a traumatizing adverse childhood event. Our current vaccine skepticism largely results from needle fear. Children born before 1983 got 6 injections before they were two, no more than 2 on one day. No one developed needle fear from shots because children can't make verbal memories until later. Since 1983, we've added 30 separate injections to the schedule. 4-year olds DO remember, and increasingly fear healthcare. During NIH research developing a needle pain reliever, we discovered that the incidence of needle fear in 10 - 12 year olds had skyrocketed to 63%, 252% higher than previously reported. The increase in fear correlated with the number of same-day booster injections at age 4-6. In 2012, Anna Taddio PhD published the same incidence of kid fear, and found adult needle fear rose from 10% to 24%. Worse, 8% of needle-fearing adults said they wouldn't vaccinate their own kids. We proved and published (Vaccine 2017) this correlation data. Treating fear is harder than preventing it; when the children protected with this vaccine schedule have their own kids, many won't vaccinate unless we intervene. As more countries adopt the booster-heavy vaccine schedule, this issue can be prevented. 2. Children, parents AND vaccinators will benefit. Our ice and vibration device "Buzzy" is proven to reduce pain and fear, and increased compliance in nonadherent teens. Learning to treat pain, fear, and focus during preschool vaccinations will make vaccinators' jobs easier, and improve parents' satisfaction with vaccination. 3. Our idea is to educate about Buzzy and pain relief, creating culturally relevant materials to teach vaccinators of preschoolers how and WHY to address pain and fear worldwide. As the world adopts Western injection schedules, it's critical to assemble knowledge and prevention materials to prevent skepticism from spreading and empower kids.

Which part(s) of the world does this idea target?

  • Eastern Africa
  • Southern Africa
  • Caribbean
  • Central America
  • South America
  • Northern America
  • Central Asia
  • Eastern Asia
  • South-eastern Asia
  • Southern Asia
  • Western Asia
  • Eastern Europe
  • Northern Europe
  • Southern Europe
  • Western Europe
  • Oceania

Geographic Focus (less than 250 Characters)

This idea is most appropriate where common practice is already 4-6 injections on the same day during the preschool period. Only one or two injections at a time builds resilience in 4-6 year olds, so pain and fear interventions aren't critical.

Who are your end users and how well do you know them? (750 characters)

Our users are nurses and patients. I was a practicing pediatrician 20 years, publishing on needle pain and changing caregiver behavior & lecturing worldwide. I've heard 10 years of feedback: Buzzy has blocked pain from over 32 million needle procedures. We hear from adults too fearful to go to the doctor, who had loved ones die due to delayed diagnosis from needle fear, a child taken off a heart transplant list due to fear, and too many anxious teens to count. We've helped families of children started on biologics or insulin who have hours of stress from needle fear. We've worked with nursing leadership and child life, both those who want to decrease pain and those who belittle the weakness of anyone fearing needles. We know this area.

How is the idea unique? (750 Characters)

Our idea PREVENTS the development of needle fear that leads to vaccine reluctance. We have over 30 RCTs proving reduced pain and fear. We were the first researchers to identify and quantify the genesis of needle fear, and connect it with Taddio's connection between fear and anti-vax intentions. In addition, our group discovered the key nuance in Dan Salmon's 2005 vaccine reluctance work: partial vaccinators SAID they feared immunogenicity and vaccine harm, but were most likely to accept the [immunogenic, potentially harmful] ORAL polio vaccine. It was the NEEDLE. Our construct of Pain-Fear-Focus is adopted in published pediatric pain guidelines; Buzzy has its own PubMed identifier. We've changed behavior and know how to expand.

Idea Proposal Stage (Select 1)

  • Majority Adoption: We have expanded the pilot significantly and the program product or service has been adopted by the majority of our intended user base (i.e. 50% to 83% of the target population or 50,000 to 1,000,000 users).

How many months are required for the project idea? (140 characters)

6 months to design cross-cultural DistrACTION cards for Fear & Focus; 4 months for a Buzzy Pain relief education template

Organization Name (less than 140 characters)

Pain Care Labs (a dba of MMJ Labs)

Type of Submitter

  • We are a For-Profit Startup or Startup Social Enterprise

Organizational Characteristics

  • Female-led organization
  • Women’s health/rights focused
  • International/global organization (implementing in multiple countries)

Organization Location (less than 140 Characters)

Atlanta GA USA

What is the current scale of your organization’s work?

  • Global (within 2 or more global regions)

Website URL

Tell us more about your organization/company (1-2 sentences)

Our mission is to eliminate unnecessary pain: as the industry leader in noninvasive pain relief, we use the body’s own physiology to inhibit pain and uncouple pain and fear. To change the way people treat and even think about pain, we combine advocacy, honest science, cool design and REUSABLE technology, so changing how the world vaccinates and preserving herd immunity are passions we've championed for years.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (750 characters)

I am on the board of the Standish Foundation and support the Child Life Community, groups who address needle pain worldwide. I've been a Shot@Life champion, and our Facebook communities are broad and enthusiastic. We have multiple design and manufacturing connections, and have worked with the University of Iowa, Cook's Children's, Children's Healthcare of Philadelphia and others on integrating our devices and teaching into vaccination clinics. The energy from a Gates grant will give added enthusiasm. Ideally the DistrACTION cards and education materials would a collaboration with one of the other grant applicants with expertise in culturally relevant collateral creation, and fund a Buzzy, Cards, and education materials.

How many people are on your team?


Tell us more about you and your team

Dr. Baxter directs innovation, invention, operations and strategy for Pain Care Labs and lectures internationally about procedural pain relief. Accomplishments include the 2009 1.1M NIH SBIR, writing and overseeing patent strategy, and successfully pursuing 510K FDA clearances. After graduating from Yale University and Emory Medical School, as a double boarded pediatric emergency physician, Dr. Baxter founded PEMA Emergency Research, Scottish Rite, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta while founding Pain Care Labs. Recognition includes Forbes Ten Healthcare Disruptors, Inc. Top Women in Tech to Watch, Top 10 Innovative and Disruptive Women in Healthcare, a Wall Street Journal “Idea Person”, and the Most Innovative CEO of 2014 from Georgia Bio. National and international lecturing highlights include MakerFaire, AARP, and TEDMED.

Overview of How Your Concept Has Evolved (5-6 sentences):

Initially we anticipated that the vaccine givers would want to reduce pain; instead, the vaccination process was so overwhelming that we realized they weren't the stakeholders. Instead, parents wanted to reduce the pain, and are the primary consumers of Buzzy. To sustainably improve the vaccination experience, those giving the injections need to understand how pain relief enhances their mission. We initially focused on a solar powered option. After listening to Unicef and others, the barriers seemed not to be batteries or ice, but speed and making vaccination appealing. We decided creating country-specific DistrACTION cards to be used WITH the existing Buzzy & appealing "comfort vaccines!" collateral would pull more toward vaccinating.

Viability (3-4 sentences and activity upload):

Feasibility (3-4 sentences):

The device has been used in over 50 countries; while pain is universal, the Distraction component to reduce pain and fear requires more specific cultural cues and written instructions in different languages. Reconfiguring for solar power would be satisfying. However, after teaching Child Life workers in the Republic of Georgia we realized that the easy, low tech addition of DistrACTION cards taught healthcare workers that child friendly pain relief mattered. Since Buzzy is reusable and 0.9 cents/injection already, creating a medium that IS the message is a better use of funds.

Desirability (3-4 sentences and activity upload):

Community Focus (2-3 sentences):

Community Impact (2-3 sentences):

We've been invited back to Tbilisi to educate more of the doctors.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Ashley Tillman

Hi Amy Baxter I am curious if you have formed any additional partnerships or connected with anyone further on solar components of your project? More generally did you connect with any end users / potential partners in low resource settings like East Africa?

Photo of Amy Baxter

Hello, Ashley- After speaking to stakeholders in countries like Azerbaijan and Georgia and with people who are currently using Buzzy in Kenya, it seems that the issue was less whether it was battery or solar powered and more why pain care mattered. From the unicef webinar I took away that novel ways to encourage caregivers to feel a sense of urgency about getting vaccinated What is far more important than whether the device is solar powered. The device can use rechargeable batteries that are attached to a solar powered adapter, which is currently available. I also realized that $50,000 is not enough to re-design and retool, but it is enough to create meaningful education materials and provide Buzzy units in a way that will provide proof of concept in 10 countries. I changed my application to reflect this new goal a week or so ago after returning from a state Department trip to the Republic of Georgia.

Photo of Ashley Tillman

Thanks so much for the additional information!

Photo of Amy Baxter

It’s in the “feasibility” section above. Mind you, This isn’t to say we wouldn’t do this in the future, just that it does not seem to be a good match of need, time, objectives and resources.

View all comments