How Doctors Try to Take the Pain Out of Vaccines—Seriously?

Babies cry after being injected with toxic vaccines.

If you’re hesitant to have your baby vaccinated because of the pain caused by the injections, you’ll be happy to know that there is a new method that will significantly reduce your baby’s pain and lessen your anxiety. And, in the process, eliminate any reason for not following the AAP’s recommended vaccine schedule.

It’s called the 5 S’s and includes Swaddling the baby in a blanket, putting him on his Stomach or Side, Shushing him, Swinging him, and giving him a pacifier to Suck on. Dr. Harvey Karp describes the technique in his book, The Happiest Baby on the Block.


Finally, a study on vaccines. A prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Published in the May 2012 issue of Pediatrics [1] and registered with A study to discover whether the 5 S’s can alleviate some of the pain of vaccination.

The study, which was conducted by Dr. John Harrington at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk, Virginia, consisted of 230 babies getting vaccines at their 2-month and 4-month checkups. They were given hep B, Pentacel (combined diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, and Haemophilus influenza type b), and Prevnar.

Babies who were excluded from the study included those with a neurological disorder, a moderate to severe illness, and a previous adverse reaction to a vaccine, as well as babies who had been given Tylenol or Advil within four hours prior to receiving the vaccine.

The babies were divided into four groups.

Group 1 (the control group) received water 2 minutes before the shot and comfort by the parent after the shot.

Group 2 received sugar water 2 minutes before the shot and comfort by the parent after the shot.

Group 3 received water 2 minutes before the shot and the 5 S’s by a researcher after the shot.

Group 4 received sugar water 2 minutes before the shot and the 5 S’s by a researcher after the shot.

Pediatric resident physicians who performed the 5 S’s watched a video and practiced the technique. They were required to successfully perform the 5 S’s four out of five times before being allowed to participate in the study.

The Riley Infant Pain Scoring Method was utilized to score pain and was based on three factors: the quality of the cry (whimpering versus a high-pitched scream, for instance), facial expressions (such as grimacing and clenched teeth), and body movements. These behaviors were scored every 15 seconds for at least 2 minutes and then every 30 seconds for up to 5 minutes post-vaccination and for another minute once the baby was calm.

Both of the groups that received the 5 S’s (with or without sugar) cried less and for shorter periods of time than the other two groups.

The babies comforted by their parents experienced slightly less pain if they were also given the sugar water, but the difference was not significant.

Note: Many doctors routinely use sugar for painful procedures such as vaccines, blood draws, and circumcision. Dr. Harrington says it’s “poor medicine not to because it does work.” However, he worries about the effect of giving children sugar in the midst of the obesity problem in the U.S. today. This concern—along with studies showing that Tylenol, which pediatricians used to recommend for babies to prevent post-vaccine pain and fever, decreases antibody production—led him to look for alternatives. It was eventually Dr. Karp’s lecture about the 5 S’s calming reflex in colicky babies that became the impetus for the study. [2]

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, other ways to make vaccines less painful and stressful include breastfeeding your baby while he’s being given a shot and remaining calm yourself. Older children can be told that vaccines will keep them from getting serious diseases. [3]


The study isn’t perfect for several reasons (comments in italics are my own).

Dr. Karp, who wasn’t involved in the study, believes the findings underestimate the 5 S’s because, unlike the sugar water which is given 2 minutes before the vaccine, the 5 S’s don’t begin for 15 to 30 seconds after the shot. His advice is to swaddle the baby before the vaccine is given, leaving only the legs exposed, and to play a white-noise CD during the procedure. [2]

The 5 S’s must be done a certain way or they don’t work. The baby should be swaddled tightly and the shushing needs to be pretty loud. [4]

The same can be said for storing and administering vaccines, which doctors already have problems with. It has to be done a certain way or they don’t work.

The 5 S’s weren’t as effective with the 4-month-old babies because the calming reflex fades after about 3 months. [4]

Hmmm … How will they solve this problem? I know. They could recommend giving more shots at the 2-month checkup while the baby’s calming reflex is still intact.

In Dr. Harrington’s study, pediatric residents did the 5 S’s, and they worked. But is it practical to do the 5 S’s in a busy pediatrician’s office? Harrington believes that parents can be taught over the course of their routine “well-child” visits to perform at least some of the 5 S’s. [5]

What about doctors? Will they be able to follow the instructions and either do the 5 S’s themselves or train residents, other staff, or parents? If doctors reuse syringes and give vaccines that are expired, are we asking too much to expect them to comprehend and properly carry out the 5 S’s?  


“As parents, we never want to see our children in pain. Some parents may even refuse to vaccinate their children for this reason. This is dangerous. Children must receive all of their vaccines to stay healthy. Even though vaccines can be painful, this pain does not last long. Remember, it is worth a few tears to protect your baby’s long-term health.” [3]

For a child who develops autism because of a vaccine, a few tears can quickly turn into a lifetime of tears and ruined health and lives.

“If parents can be taught to perform the 5 S’s, then infant shots may be less painful. This should help make sure that more infants receive all of their recommended vaccines.” [3]

“If?” What parent can’t be taught to do the 5 S’s? What parent doesn’t already do some or all of them? This is Parenting 101. I can see it being a problem for the doctors for the reasons I’ve already stated. But I think parents will get it.

“For most parents—even the strongest believers in the benefits of vaccines—anticipating how their newborns’ facial expressions will turn from curious to shock before they burst into tears from the needle stick, can make the next well-baby check-up something they would love to skip.” [2]  

No parent of a vaccine-injured child could ever have anticipated how autism would change their lives. These parents would give anything to have skipped that well-baby checkup. 

“Taking your infant to the doctor’s office for vaccinations and tests can be a harrowing experience for the parent and the child. However, there are ways to ease the shock of the needle, at least for the child.” [6]  

Harrowing? I’ll tell you what’s harrowing. Autism. How about spending some time and money figuring out how to ease the shock parents experience as they watch their children slip away into the autism abyss?

“Some parents might be a little skittish giving their babies vaccines knowing it’s not painless.” But that should not prevent parents from getting these important shots. They can do something to reduce the pain and soothe their child.” [6]

Knowing they’re not painless? How about knowing they’re not safe or even effective? How about a study to figure out how to reduce the pain of autism and soothe these children and their families?

“The 5 S’s appear to be a viable nonpharmacologic option for clinics to implement when providing analgesia during vaccinations. In addition to minimizing suffering, pain control during immunizations may calm parents who are hesitant to have their children vaccinated. [7]

A nonpharmacologic option? There’s nothing nonpharmacologic about vaccines. Calm parents? How about calming parents whose children have been injured by vaccines instead of refusing to take responsibility and give them the help they so desperately need and deserve?


According to the study, more research is needed. Research to validate the findings. Research to see if they can be replicated. Research to come up with other ways to lessen the pain of vaccines. And research to see if parents can be taught to reliably do the 5 S’s.

I repeat. This was a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. To remove the pain of vaccines. To reduce crying time after a vaccine from 2 or 3 minutes to less than a minute which, in turn, reduces the mother’s pain of seeing her baby cry which, in turn, increases her willingness to continue vaccinating her child.

This wasn’t a study of the toxins in vaccines. Or of the safety of any particular vaccine or any combination of vaccines. Or to determine whether vaccines work. It wasn’t a study of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children. God forbid someone would conduct studies like these. Because studies like these would reveal the truth about vaccines. And that revelation would ultimately lower vaccination rates. And reduce autism. God forbid.












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About the author

Jennifer Hutchinson

Jennifer Hutchinson is a freelance editor and writer. She has devoted the last few years to helping Jake recover, researching autism and vaccines, and sharing what she knows with others. She lives in Winchester, Virginia, with Ann and Jake.