Vaccines for children: When to vaccinate your child
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 shot
- If your child can't be vaccinated
- Who to talk to for vaccine advice
- What to do if you move
- Travel vaccinations
- Can't find an answer?
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.
Your child’s vaccination schedule
Vaccination schedules are carefully studied and designed to give the best possible protection for children against serious diseases.
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 healthcare provider will let you know which vaccines your child needs at each visit. You can also use the CANImmunize smartphone application to:
- record and keep track of your child’s vaccines
- learn more about your child’s vaccination schedule
Where to get vaccinated
To find out where you can get your child vaccinated, you can:
- contact your healthcare 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. Fewer visits to the clinic mean less unpleasant vaccine experiences for your child.
If your child is missing a shot
Life can get busy and you may not be able to make every vaccination appointment for your child. If you do miss an appointment, it is important to get back on schedule as quickly as possible. This will allow your child to get the most benefit from the protection offered by vaccines.
Book an appointment with your healthcare provider as soon as possible. They can help you figure out what vaccines your child has already received and which ones are needed.
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.
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 healthcare 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 healthcare 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 healthcare 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
For more information
- A Parent’s Guide to Vaccination (available in 13 languages to order for free)
- Caring for kids: Information for parents from Canada's paediatricians
- Immunize Canada: information and resources on vaccination
- The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
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