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Promote vaccination by preventing pain

By decreasing the drama of vaccinating, our solutions will give underserved families a reason to bring children NOW for vaccination.

Photo of Amy Baxter
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Describe what you intend to do and how you'll do it in one to two sentences (required 350 Characters)

Too often those in urban environments are treated like numbers, judged for nonadherence instead of respectfully supported. Pain Care Labs will adapt proven Buzzy needle pain & fear relief for fast-paced urban vaccination environments, allowing for advertising that focuses on the opportunity for needle fear friendly vaccine protection.

Explain the innovation (2,500 characters)

Our innovation is to address vaccine reluctance, skepticism, and a feeling of marginalization. As a pediatrician, one patient in our public clinic said "Oh, I don't want to make her get the HPV vaccine today. Her life is painful enough." The perception that vaccination is an unnecessary pain in a life that is already difficult pervades nonadherence. Often bad parenting is indistinguishable from fatigue; in urban environments, fatigue is relentless. Coping with your preschooler to teen is difficult enough without subjecting them to pain; the parental shame from a child's reaction to a surprise round of injections defies class. These social factors can undermine the abstract concept of protection from disease. Current vaccine advertising focuses on prevention; parents already know this. Instead, our innovation is to focus on respecting the tough job of parenting by helping with the pain of shots. Buzzy is proven in over 30 RCTs to block needle pain. By addressing not only pain but the fear and focus of the child in developmentally appropriate ways, we support the parents who are ambivalent about vaccination and the child's future relationship with healthcare. The phrase "needle phobia" has led to a proliferation of needle-less options. The issue is not the needle, it is pain and autonomy, allowing a self-aware 3+ year old to retain dignity while showing what a big kid they are and how well they can take a poke. Our current approach to vaccination has led to a 252% increase in vaccine reluctance, "needle fear", and fuels the antivaxx movement. Our research has proven the dose response to painful injections and later fear; our products have been independently proven to reduce both pain and fear. We will adapt materials to reduce the pain and fear of vaccination, thus promoting the retention of dignity and resilience that keep a kid from fearing healthcare. By making it easier for the child, we make it easier for the parent. Anyone who has taken a child for a "needle-free" injection feels the let-down when the child still had pain, and resents the parent who promised otherwise. By combining distraction, pain relief, and teaching that pain MATTERS, we will give a strong hook communities can use to drive vaccination. On THIS day at THIS place we will be offering needle fear friendly vaccination, with free stickers and a cool device. "Shots don't have to hurt." In New Zealand, Buzzy increased adherence to bicillin injections, and is now in national guidelines.

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

  • Northern America
  • Eastern Europe
  • Western Europe

Geographic Focus

We're FDA cleared in the US, Mexico, Brazil, Taiwan, and Australia/NZ, and CE marked. Japan would be a GREAT place for this, but there is a national stigma against needle fear that would need to be culturally adapted for advertising vaccine clinics with Buzzy.

Stage of Innovation

  • Scale

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

We've worked with Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to reduce their accidental sticks during vaccination by reducing pain, Riley Children's to increase adherence to Crohn's medication use, IGnS to help teach about needle phobia for infusions, and the PDSA idiopathic thrombocytopenia group to help kids with ITP deal with lab draws and procedures, among others.

How is your idea unique? (750 characters)

Our idea PREVENTS the development of needle fear that leads to vaccine reluctance. We have over 30 RCTs proving we can reduce 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 PAIN. 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.

What is the name of your organization

Pain Care Labs, a dba of MMJ Labs

Explain your organization (250 characters)

Our mission is to eliminate unnecessary pain. Using noninvasive physiologic pain relief to uncouple pain and fear, we combine advocacy, honest science, cool design and REUSABLE tech to change how the world vaccinates and preserve community immunity.

Type of Submitter

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

Organizational Characteristics

  • Female-led organization

Gender and Diversity (500 characters)

We have only had one official hiring process, but intentionally made the job known through networks outside our internal groups with an intention to expand racial diversity. We support any gender identity, use of pronouns, and have defended employees' right to self-define on our public facing website.

Organization Location (less than 250 Characters)

Atlanta, GA, Christchurch NZ, Australia, Sao Paulo Brazil, Portugal, Czech Republic, the UK, Israel

Size of organization (number of employees):

  • 6-20 people

Website URL

Scale of organizational work

  • Global (within 2 or more global regions)

Tell us more about you

Applying to Gavi INFUSE

  • OpenIDEO Website
  • I've known about GAVI since serving as a Shot AT Life champion


Join the conversation:

Photo of Manisha Laroia

Hi Amy Baxter 
As the challenge is coming to a close, please make sure you have answered all the questions in the Public and the Privately Submitted section.

A few general pointers you should check for in your final submission:
[1] How your innovation solves the challenge problem?
[2] Working of your prototype and its pilot stage?
[3] Does the solution fit in the highly mobile urban settings and how it can prove to be low cost?
[4] How the solution caters to the gender equity by having an inclusive approach?
[5] About your team and your working relation with your partners?

The submission deadline is 5pm PST on Wednesday April 10th/ 1:00am CET on Thursday April 11th.
Feel free to make the necessary changes to your application and hit the submit button before the deadline.

All the best!
OpenIDEO Community Team

Photo of Amy Baxter

Ah, brilliant Isaac - you have hit upon the fine line between insight, invention, and innovation. Our work has revealed the problem; our invention supports a pain-mitigating approach that is a solution. Innovation, though, is getting others to ACCEPT a solution, which means marketing, guideline implementation, or leveraging existing systems. The beneficiaries of the idea of advertising and delivering on less traumatic injections are clear: the children and communities who would be more likely to be protected, and less likely to later perpetuate anti-vax sentiments due to trauma. 131 million children are born each year, 90% -ish are fully vaccinated in urban settings, so there could be a lot of benefit. What we need to make this solution scale is acceptance and adoption by existing groups like GAVI or the Gates Foundation; as a small academic-run medical device company, we don't have the leverage to disseminate the solution. We've tried : TED talks, TEDMED, Exponential Medicine, academic publications, even going on Shark Tank... but venture capital is not interested in a reusable device, marketing is hard without money, and people in power and in medicine born prior to 1982 are much less likely to be able to empathize with needle fear. The "suck it up" mentality surrounding injections thus leads to process interventions rather than the addressing the psychology surrounding the procedure itself. GAVI is in a position to create Pain/Fear/Focus materials almost for free, use our research and insight to disseminate the Fear/Focus part, and simply use ice on the older kids with a little bit of parent and injector training. This is where capitalism falls short and government or NGOs are needed: how do you implement essentially free solutions on a large scale?

Photo of Isaac Jumba

Hi Amy Baxter great to read through your idea. I especially like how you were able to clearly bring out the connection between pain and vaccination levels in the highly mobile urban setting.

Could you share more on how you intend to market or communicate your solution to the intended beneficiaries in a way that helps accelerate immunization coverage in their areas?

Could you also go deeper in describing your intended beneficiaries:Where do they live? What is their age? How many people might this intervention realistically reach? If you can, describe a typical user/client/beneficiary. Who do you need to make this solution scale? Do you have a local team in the target areas to implement the solution?

Excited to read through the feedback.
Any other thoughts Manisha Laroia Ashley Tillman ?