Vaccines for children: When to vaccinate your child
As a parent, you protect your child and keep them happy and healthy. Deciding to vaccinate your child is the best way to protect them from disease.
On this page
- Your child's vaccination schedule
- Where to get vaccinated
- Why children are vaccinated at such a young age
- If your child is missing a vaccine
- If your child can't be vaccinated
- Who to talk to for vaccine advice
- What to do if you move
- Travel vaccinations
Your child's vaccination schedule
Vaccination schedules are carefully studied and designed to give the best possible protection for children against serious diseases.
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.
Vaccination schedules can vary slightly, depending on the province or territory you live in. This means that some provinces or territories will vaccinate at a different age.
Typically, your child will be vaccinated:
- between birth to 2 months
- at 4 months
- at 6 months
- between 12 months and 18 months
- between 4 to 6 years of age
For some of the vaccines, your child will require more than 1 dose at different times. This is needed because for some vaccines, the first dose does not provide as much immunity as possible.
More than 1 dose is needed to build more complete immunity. The DTaP-IPV-Hib vaccine, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and Haemophilus influenzae type B, is an example.
In other cases, the initial series of shots that children receive as part of their infant immunizations helps them build immunity. After a while, however, that immunity begins to wear off.
At this point, a "booster" dose is needed to bring immunity levels back up. The MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella, is a good example.
These vaccines are usually referred to as "booster shots." It is important not to miss any of the booster shots to ensure your child has full protection.
Your health care provider will let you know which vaccines your child needs at each visit.
Where to get vaccinated
To find out where you can get your child vaccinated, you can:
- contact your health care provider
- search the internet for your nearest public health office (CLSC in Quebec) or check your local phone book
- visit the provincial and territorial immunization resources page for more information specific to your area
Why children are vaccinated at such a young age
Children are vaccinated at a very young age because this is when they are most vulnerable to diseases. At this point their immune system is not developed enough to be able to fight serious infections.
The vaccination schedule is based on infants' ability to create an immune response. Vaccines are given to protect them against 14 serious diseases at a time when they are most at risk.
Medical experts do not advise delaying or spreading out the recommended vaccines. This does not provide any added benefit to your child.
If your child is missing a vaccine
Life can get busy and you may not be able to make every vaccination appointment for your child. Your child may also have missed vaccines from your health care provider or their school because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is important to call your health care provider or local public health authority if your child missed receiving any vaccines. They can help your child get back on track with the recommended vaccination schedule. This will help to protect your child from many vaccine-preventable diseases.
If your child can't be vaccinated
Some children may not be able to get some vaccines, including those with:
- specific medical conditions
- severe allergic reactions to vaccine ingredients
Examples include children who need to take high-dose steroids or who have a weakened immune system from cancer treatment (chemotherapy). These children may need to avoid vaccines that contain a weakened live virus, such as measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and chickenpox.
These children are at risk of getting the disease(s) that the vaccine would have prevented.
Talk to your health care provider or local public health authority if you have any concerns about your child's health status and vaccines.
If your child can't be vaccinated, you can help protect them by encouraging others to get vaccinated. This will help prevent the spread of disease to your child.
Who to talk to for vaccine advice
It is important to get the facts about vaccination from reliable sources. Talk to a trusted health care provider about your child's vaccinations.
Trusted sources include your:
- public health department
What to do if you move
If you move to another province or territory, your child's vaccination schedule may change. Once you have moved, contact your new health care provider or local public health office. They will tell you which vaccines may be needed in that province or territory.
Remember to take your child's vaccination record to the appointment with you.
When travelling abroad, you and your family may be at risk for diseases that can be prevented by vaccines. These may include diseases for which vaccines are not normally given in Canada.
Visit Travel vaccinations or talk to your health care provider at least 6 weeks before you travel. Certain vaccines may be recommended depending on:
- your age
- what you plan to do
- where you plan to travel
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