A University of Guelph psychologist has helped develop a new online game designed to give kids and their caregivers strategies to help manage pain, fear and anxiety about vaccination.

Dr. Meghan McMurtry, a professor in the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences (CSAHS), said the game aims to remove some of the pain and fear-related concerns that can hinder vaccination for children.

The CARD game provides an accessible and engaging way for children to learn about taking an active role in their own vaccinations and, ultimately, their own health care,” she said.

Designed to address fear of needles, “CARD” stands for a coping strategy — Comfort, Ask, Relax and Distract. Led by Dr. Anna Taddio of University of Toronto, the new game complements the suite of CARD interventions that McMurtry helped develop to provide guidance for immunization clinic organizers and clinicians, people being vaccinated and their caregivers.

Prof. Meghan McMurtry smiles against a summer lawn
Dr. Meghan McMurtry

It was developed in collaboration with Immunize Canada to reduce stress-related responses during vaccination and to teach lifelong coping skills for other stressful situations.

With many families now planning to have their children over the age of five get COVID-19 vaccines, the game can help younger children have a positive vaccination experience.

“Given the recent approval for five- to 11-year-old children to be vaccinated against COVID, it is important to have a child-friendly and targeted intervention to make vaccinations as comfortable as possible,” McMurtry said.

Additional collaborating partners on the game include Anxiety Canada, the Hospital for Sick Children, the University of Waterloo and the University of Toronto.

A researcher in child health psychology, McMurtry specializes in the management of acute and chronic pain and medical procedure-related fear in children, and provided scientific input into the game.

Before the pandemic, McMurtry was part of the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety subcommittee that provided guidance to the World Health Organization on how to understand, prevent and manage immunization stress-related responses.


Dr. Meghan McMurtry