Vaccines for children: What to expect at the vaccination appointment

Feeling anxious about your child's vaccination visit is common and understandable. Knowing what to expect can help ease your worries and make it a positive experience for you and your child.

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Before the vaccination

Canadians should consult with their health care provider or public health authority to determine when they should visit, and learn about the measures that have been put in place to safely deliver immunization services during COVID-19.

Here is a quick checklist for your child's vaccination visit:

  1. Make an appointment with your health care provider or public health office
    • Where your child gets their vaccines depends on the province or territory you live in
  2. Bring your child's vaccination record to the appointment
    • If your child does not have a vaccination record yet, your health care provider will give you one
  3. Bring your child's favourite toy, book or activity to help distract them
  4. Book the next vaccination appointment before you leave your health care provider's office
  5. Mark the next appointment in your cell phone or home calendar to help you remember
  6. Download the CANImmunize smartphone application to record and keep track of your child's vaccines.

Keep your child's vaccination record in a safe place so you can find it when needed. From time to time, you may be asked to provide proof of your child's vaccinations.

In some parts of Canada, children need to have all of their vaccinations up to date before starting school or daycare. Your child's vaccination history is helpful if you take your child to another health care provider.

If your child is sick or has a fever when it's time for their vaccination, talk to your health care provider. It is usually fine to go ahead with the vaccination, but they can help you decide.

During the vaccination

Your health care provider may ask you questions about your child's health, such as if they have allergies or health problems.

To help your child during the vaccination, you can:

  • take a deep breath, try to relax and stay positive
    • your child may react to your emotions
  • hold your child close, in an upright position before, during and after the needle so they feel hugged (not restrained)
  • nurse your baby right before, during and after the needle, as breastfeeding combines holding, sweet taste and sucking, which has been proven to be one of the best ways to reduce the pain for your baby
  • buy skin patches to reduce the pain from the needle
    • this needs to be put on your child at the right time before the needle so that it has time to work but has not worn off. Ask your health care provider for the correct location and time to put on the patch
  • distract your child with their favourite toy or activity, such as singing, which will take your child's focus away from the needle and can actually help reduce the pain
  • rock your child back and forth right after the vaccination to help soothe them

After the vaccination

You can give your child medicine to help manage common side effects such as pain and fever. Ask your health care provider what is recommended.

Finally, don't forget to book an appointment for your child's next vaccination before you leave.

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