Supporting Young Child Resilience Through Vaccination:

Using Science to Manage Needle-Related Pain And Distress

Dr. Rebecca Pillai Riddell


Over the past four decades, we have gone from believing that infants and young children did not experience pain to actually realizing that young children may actually experience more pain and pain-related distress than older children and adults. Vaccination pain can be challenging, overwhelming and fear-inducing to young children and the parents who love them. Even health professionals report stress at having to expose children to necessary painful procedures. Managing vaccination pain is an excellent context to support children’s coping, both inside and outside the medical appointment! There is a large amount of scientific evidence about best practices to use when you vaccinate your child. Building on the recommendations created for About Kids Health Pain Hub , Dr. Pillai Riddell will teach parents and professionals quick tips and tricks using the 3 P’s (Psychological, Pharmacological and Physical) that not only reduce pain during the current vaccination appointment but, by reducing children’s pre-needle fear in the future, will support pain and pain-related distress resilience throughout their life! 

Dr. Pillai Riddell is the Director of the Opportunities to Understand Childhood Hurt Laboratory or The OUCH Lab ( at York University, Canada. She also is an advisory board member of the Sick Kids Pain Centre, the Sick Kids Infant Mental Health Promotion Program and the Strong Minds Strong Kids organization (formerly known as the Psychology Foundation of Canada).   As both a basic behavioural scientist and a clinical psychologist, Dr. Pillai Riddell leads a world-renown research program in infant and young child pain that seeks to understand pain from psychological, social and a biological perspective. Among her award-winning research accomplishments, she built the largest cohort in the world studying young child and parent interactions in vaccinations over the first five years of life. Her research often focuses on the power of parents to make vaccinations less painful now and in the future for young children. Dr. Pillai Riddell is a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists and recently won the 2019 American Pain Society’s Jeffrey Lawson Award for Advocacy in Children’s Pain. She lives in Toronto, Ontario with her husband and two children.