Innovative program helps kids overcome their fear of needles

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Only 27% of parents say they will vaccinate their children right away when they become eligible for a smaller dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, according to the latest KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor. 33% of parents say they will wait and see how the vaccine works and 30% say they will definitely not vaccinate their kids at all. 

But even families who want the vaccine face another challenge—fear of needles. An estimated 63% of children are afraid of needles, and so are many of their parents. But technology like SuperMeg, a chatbot, is helping families reduce fear and anxiety. 

Created by the Meg Foundation, a non-profit focused on pain management, SuperMeg guides children like 9-year-old Azariah Bannister through the vaccine process, teaching him breathing and distraction techniques.

Jody Thomas, a pediatric psychologist, and the founder and CEO of the Meg Foundation, said that the source of pain lies in the brain.  

“Pain is not just about the needle going in the skin, it's about the anxieties,” Thomas told CBS News' senior medical correspondent Dr. Tara Narula. 

“Young kids often feel like they don't have a choice to get that poke, so as much choice as we can give them, which arm do we want that poke in it? Which toy do you want to bring? Do you want to sit on my lap?” Thomas added. 

While the ongoing back-and-forth debates about COVID vaccinations that adults have been having could complicate the preparation for the vaccine rollout to young children, Thomas said that some children want to get vaccinated.  

“Kids are, of course, hearing everything. They always do,” Thomas said. “We were hearing kids talk about that they want to get this vaccination because it not only keeps themselves healthy, but it is helping take care of others. That's an incredibly powerful message for kids that they are doing something good for the world.”

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