CARD Mobile Game on an iPhone

Online CARDTM game educates children, parents, and caregivers on how to use evidence-based pain and anxiety management strategies during vaccination.

With COVID-19 vaccines now available in Canada for kids 5 to 11 years old, many parents and caregivers are looking for ways to help younger children have a positive vaccination experience.

A team working with Anna Taddio, Professor in the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto, and Senior Associate Scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, has developed a web version of the CARDTM game originally created to help kids receiving vaccines in school-based programs.

“We want to remove pain and fear related concerns as barriers to vaccination for everyone,” Taddio said previously.

Taddio's CARDTM system (short for Comfort, Ask, Relax and Distract) addresses fear of needles through pain management and coping strategies. Earlier this year, Taddio received federal funding to "design and implement pain mitigation strategies for adults" in support of the country's mass vaccination campaign to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We want to remove pain and fear related concerns as barriers to vaccination for everyone,” Taddio said previously.

As vaccines for COVID-19 first began to rollout in 2021, and with the funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada, Taddio’s system was shared with health-care networks and the public to help people feel more comfortable when receiving their vaccinations. The CARD TM system has been used across the province including in specialized vaccination clinics run by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, and Ottawa Public Health.

Images courtesy of Immunize Canada

The new web-based CARDTM game is intended for younger kids who are currently being encouraged to get vaccinated. “We want to help younger kids, especially now that they are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. They can play the game on their own or with caregivers to learn how to cope with fear and pain during vaccination,” Taddio said.

In collaboration with Immunize Canada, the game was developed by Anthony Ilersich, a fourth-year student in the Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Waterloo. “We developed the web-based game because if the material is interactive and easy to play online, it should be all the more effective,” said Ilersich who was the lead-developer on the CARDTM game project.

“Vaccination is our strongest defense against preventable diseases. It keeps our children, families, and communities healthy,” said Lucie Marisa Bucci, Senior Manager, Immunize Canada. “Immunize Canada is proud to have partnered on the CARDTM web game because it applies the best evidence and all that we know to make the vaccination experience more positive for everyone.”

The new game is web-based and accessible on any mobile device. Parents and kids can visit the Immunize Canada website to play the game and learn about coping strategies ahead of time. Children can then use the game as a coping strategy during the actual vaccination procedure.

“The new online CARDTM game is not only an exceptional all-in-one resource for teaching kids how to reduce pain and anxiety during vaccination; it is also an important tool for every parent and caregiver preparing to vaccinate their child,” Bucci said. 

Prior to the pandemic, Niagara Region implemented a paper-based CARD program across all schools in the area and in 2015, Taddio’s HELPinKids&Adults Clinical Practice Guideline (CPG) about mitigating pain during vaccination was adopted across Canada and internationally, including by the World Health Organization. 

Additional partners who collaborated on the CARD game include: Anxiety Canada, The Hospital for Sick Children, and the University of Guelph.

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