WHO Adopts Professor Anna Taddio's Clinical Practice Guidelines to Reduce Pain and Distress During Vaccinations

The World Health Organization (WHO) is the branch of the United Nations charged with improving international public health. To achieve meaningful global health change, the WHO has made increasing vaccination rates and reducing the spread of disease a priority.

To aid in this mission, the WHO invited Professor Anna Taddio of the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy to share her insights on pain management during immunizations with the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts – a panel devoted to improving vaccination rates globally. Professor Taddio visited the WHO in February and again in April to present her research and recommendations on reducing pain, distress, and fear during vaccinations.

“It was an honour to be invited to Geneva to speak to members of the World Health Organization on my research,” noted Professor Anna Taddio. “Similarly, it was very validating to have our work analyzed as thoroughly as it was in the name of reducing immunization pain on a global scale.”

The result of these visits was “Reducing pain and distress at the time of vaccination,” a report published recently in the WHO’s Weekly epidemiological record. Based on evidence presented by Professor Taddio and her global pain management peers, the group concluded that there are “effective, feasible, culturally acceptable, and age-relevant evidence based interventions that can help mitigate pain and distress at the time of vaccination” that should be implemented globally.

In that report, the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts outlined the appropriate pain mitigation interventions for infants and children, adults, and all ages. These recommendations include proper positioning, use of pain-neutral language, and techniques including breastfeeding, distraction, and coughing – all recommendations that appear in the guidelines developed by Professor Taddio and her colleagues through the HELPinKids&Adults 2.0 2015 Canadian Clinical Practice Guidelines.

“The report by the World Health Organization covers almost ½ of the interventions included in the guidelines,” noted Professor Taddio. “It’s encouraging to know that all our hard work and efforts in this area will now have a wider application globally through our interactions with the WHO.”

“Unfortunately, however, other pain mitigation techniques that work within the Canadian setting – topical anesthetics – have not been adopted as they are not as feasible on a global scale because of cost, lack of availability, and the additional time required to use them,” noted Professor Taddio.

To support the implementation of these recommendations, the report states that pain mitigation recommendations be included with all WHO immunization practice guidance materials, and outlined recommendations at the country level, and in healthcare workers’ training curricula.

As a result, Professor Taddio’s research is having a real impact on global health. This is apparent through the WHO’s recognition of the broad and profound impact of pain experienced during immunization, and the recommendations they are implementing to ensure that people across the globe will have better immunization experiences, which, in turn, will lead to better health behaviours, practices, and outcomes.