For First Nations and Inuit – Vaccines: making sure kids get their needles

Immunizing your children early and on time helps protect them, but also the whole community from disease and illness. As a parent or caregiver, your child's health is in your hands.

Learn when and where to get your child immunized, and how to keep immunizations up to date. Know what to expect when your child is immunized.

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Did you know?

Most children may still be immunized even if they have a cold or mild fever.

When should I immunize my child?

Vaccines work best when given on time. Have your child immunized (or vaccinated) according to schedule, because the first two years of life are the most vulnerable.

Your health care provider will give you an immunization schedule; this tells you which vaccine is needed at what age. Follow the schedule to give your child the most benefit.

Immunization schedules are different depending on where you live. Here is an example of a common schedule:

  • 2 months (or at birth in some provinces and territories)
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 12 to 15 months
  • 18 months
  • between the ages of 4 and 6 years

Individual provinces and territories have different regulations regarding immunization. Some provinces and territories require that your child's vaccines be up to date before starting daycare or school.

Did you know?

You can download or order paper copies of a child's immunization calendar in either English, French or Inuktitut.

If you plan to leave your province or territory while your child is still young:

  • have your child complete any series of vaccines already started
  • contact your new health care provider or public health office (Centres locaux de services communautaires, or CLSC in Quebec) for a new schedule
  • have your child immunized according to the new schedule
  • remember to bring your immunization record to each appointment so your health care provider can update it

Did you know?

Children are best protected when they receive all doses of their vaccines on time.

What immunizations are recommended?

Vaccines not only help protect your child from illness, they can also help stop illness from spreading in your community. Sharing this information with your family and friends can encourage other parents to immunize their children as well. The more community members are immunized, the more we are able to keep communities healthy and strong.

Table: Vaccine-preventable diseases
Disease Symptoms of disease Possible complications of disease
Diphtheria
Diphtheria
  • Severe sore throat
  • High fever
  • Respiratory and heart problems
  • Paralysis
  • Death in 5-10% of cases
Whooping Cough (Pertussis)
Whooping Cough (Pertussis)
  • Violent coughing fits that may persist for months
  • Difficulty eating, drinking and breathing
  • Pneumonia
  • Convulsions
  • Brain damage (1 case per 11,000)
  • Death (0.4% among infants)
Tetanus
Tetanus
  • Jaw spasms
  • Vocal chord spasms
  • Full-body muscle spasms
  • Death in 10% of cases
Polio
Polio
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • General discomfort
  • Paralysis of arms and legs (1% of cases)
  • Breathing problems
  • Permanent paralysis (nearly 50% of hospitalized cases)
  • Death (5% of hospitalized cases)
Haemophilus Influenzae type B (Hib)
Haemophilus Influenzae type B (Hib)
  • Epiglottitis (severe swelling of the throat)
  • Pneumonia
  • Meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain)
  • Deafness
  • Intellectual and developmental disabilities
  • Death (5% of meningitis cases)
Measles
Measles
  • Rash
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • General feeling of illness
  • Ear infection (5-9% of cases)
  • Pneumonia (1-5% of cases)
  • Convulsions
  • Permanent brain damage (1 case per 1,000)
  • Death (1 case per 3,000)
Mumps
Mumps
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Swollen glands near jawbone
  • Meningitis (10-30% of cases)
  • Deafness
  • Testicular infection
  • Ovarian infection
German Measles (Rubella)
German Measles (Rubella)
  • Rash
  • Swollen glands
  • Arthritis (especially in women)
  • Miscarriage in pregnant women
  • Malformations in infants in cases where mother was infected during pregnancy
Chickenpox (Varicella)
Chickenpox (Varicella)
  • Fever
  • Many small blisters that develop scabs
  • Itching
  • Ear infection
  • Pneumonia
  • Skin infection (e.g. impetigo), sometimes severe (e.g. flesh-eating disease)
  • Encephalitis (brain infection)
  • Malformations in infants in cases where mother was infected during pregnancy
  • Shingles (15-30% over lifetime)
  • Death
Meningococcal
Meningococcal
  • High fever
  • Severe headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • General feeling of illness
  • Red marks or tiny pin-size hemorrhages or bruises on the skin
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Amputation of hands or feet (10-15% of those infected with serogroup C)
  • Death (10-15% of individuals infected with serogroup C)
Pneumococcal
Pneumococcal
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • General feeling of illness
  • Ear infection
  • Sinusitis
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Death
 
Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Jaundice (yellow colouring of the skin and the whites of the eyes)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Severe liver disease
  • Long-term liver infection (10% of adults and up to 90% of infants)
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Liver cancer
  • Death (1% of cases)
Seasonal Flu (Influenza)
Seasonal Flu (Influenza)
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • General feeling of illness
  • Ear infection
  • Sinusitis
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Death

Content adapted from the Canadian Paediatric Society's "Your Child's Best Shot - A parent's guide to vaccination."

Where do I take my child for immunization?

Where you take your child will vary depending on where you live--on reserve or in an urban, rural or remote community.

There are a number of ways to find out where your child can get immunized:

  • talk to a health care provider in your community
  • contact an urban health centre, family clinic or another health care facility
  • check the phone book or search the internet for a public health office (CLSC in Quebec)

What should I expect when my child is immunized?

Understanding what will happen when your child is vaccinated may help make the experience easier for both of you. Discuss any concerns you may have with your doctor, nurse or health care provider. Be sure to tell them if your child has any illnesses or allergies.

Common reactions

Before the needles, some children may fuss. Often, children react to our own emotions. If you are anxious or nervous, your child may feel this. Touching, talking or cuddling with your child will help make the immunization a more comfortable experience.

After immunization, most children are fine. However, a child may:

  • be cranky, fussy or sleepy
  • have a low fever
  • develop a red spot or minor swelling around where the needle was given

These symptoms are common and do not last long--a couple of days at the most. Ask your health care provider what you can do for your child to ease any discomfort.

Allergic reactions

As with any medicine, an allergic reaction is possible, but uncommon. For this reason, you will be asked to wait on site for 15 minutes after your child's immunization.

When to get help

Contact your health care provider immediately if your child shows any of these signs after being immunized:

  • fever over 38°C or 100°F
  • seizure or convulsions--often with a high fever
  • is crying or fussy for more than 24 hours
  • increased swelling and redness at the injection site
  • is unusually sleepy or unresponsive
  • if you sense that something isn't right

Why should I keep track of immunizations?

Your child's health and well-being are good reasons to keep track of your child's immunizations. By keeping track, you can help ensure that your:

  • health care provider has the proper information
  • child receives the right immunizations on time

At your first visit, your health care provider should provide you with an immunization record (or card). If not, ask for one, and remember to bring it to each appointment. Your health care provider will update it each time your child is immunized.

An immunization record may be required when your child:

  • starts school
  • is transferred to a school in another area
  • attends daycare/goes to day camp
  • receives health care outside the community
  • travels outside the country
  • moves to another community
  • has a new health care provider

Life with young children can be busy. If you miss one or more scheduled immunizations, get them back on track fast. Make an appointment with a health care provider as soon as possible.

Quick immunization checklist

  1. Make an appointment - the first vaccines are usually given to babies when they are about 2 months old. Your health care provider will give you a schedule for your child.
  2. Bring your child's immunization record - you will need your child's record for every new appointment.
  3. Make the next appointment - set a date for your child's next immunization before leaving your health care provider's office or public health office (CLSC in Quebec).
  4. Mark the next date on your calendar - do this as soon as you get home so you will not forget.
  5. Keep your child's immunization record - put it in a safe place so you can find it when you need it.

Remember, immunization is the safest way to protect your child's health.

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