Vaccination and your child
Vaccination is the best way to protect your child against many dangerous diseases. In Canada, vaccines prevent illnesses such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), measles, mumps, rubella and hepatitis B.
There are also vaccines available to protect children against chickenpox (varicella), pneumococcal and meningococcal diseases,, as well as diseases caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) and rotavirus gastroenteritis (a common cause of severe diarrhea in children under 3 years).
Influenza (flu) vaccine is recommended for children older than 6 months.
Not all of these vaccines are covered by every provincial or territorial health plan. Depending on where you live, you may have to pay for some of them.
What vaccines should my child receive?
Your child should receive all the recommended vaccines (“shots”). The timing for each shot may be slightly different depending on where you live. Here is what the Canadian Paediatric Society and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization currently recommend:
- 5-in-1 (also known as DPTP-Hib), DPT-polio, or Hib vaccine protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, and Hib disease.
- MMR protects against measles, mumps, and rubella.
- Hepatitis B vaccine.
- dTap protects adolescents against diptheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough).
- Chickenpox (varicella) vaccine.
- Pneumococcal vaccine protects against infections caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, including meningitis (a brain infection), pneumonia, and ear infections.
- Meningococcal vaccine protects against diseases caused by the meningococcus bacteria, including meningitis and septicemia, a serious blood infection.
- HPV vaccine protects girls from several types of HPV that cause cervical cancer and genital warts.
- Rotavirus vaccine protects infants against rotavirus, the most common cause of serious diarrhea in babies and young children.
Should my child receive any other vaccines?
The CPS recommends that all children over 6 months old get a flu shot each year. The current vaccine doesn’t work in children younger than 6 months old.
The vaccine is especially important for children who are at high risk of complications from the flu. These are children with heart or lung problems (like cystic fibrosis or asthma), a chronic condition like diabetes, or have to be treated for long periods of time with ASA (Aspirin).
You should also speak to a physician about vaccines that can protect your child while travelling.
Are vaccines safe?
Vaccines are very safe. There are rarely reasons not to get vaccinated.
- If your child had an allergic reaction to a vaccine—such as breathing problems, severe swelling of the skin or mouth—talk to your doctor before the next shot.
- With any vaccine, there may be some redness, swelling or pain at the place where the needle went into the arm or leg.
- Some children may have a fever after a vaccine. Ask your doctor what to give for the fever or pain.
- If your child is very sick when it’s time for a vaccine, talk to your doctor.
How can I minimize the pain?
Needles can hurt. To lessen the pain you can:
- Apply a topical anaesthetic (a cream that causes temporary numbness) an hour before getting the needle. You may have to confirm with your doctor what part of your child’s body the shot will be given (for example, the arm or the leg). Your pharmacist can help you find the cream.
- Give your baby sugar water (with a teaspoon or pacifier) just before the shot, or nurse your baby while he gets the needle.
- Use distractions (blow bubbles, read a book), suggest deep breathing, remain calm and physically comfort your child (cuddle, hold hands) during the needle.
- If your child is crying or fussy after getting the shot, you can give her acetaminophen (such as Tylenol or Tempra).
Routine childhood immunization schedule
For information on which vaccines are covered and when in your province visit: www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/im/is-vc-eng.php.
More information from the CPS:
- Tips for parents and children on making vaccinations as easy and pain-free as possible.
- Talk to your doctor or public health nurse if you have questions about vaccines or your child’s health.
- The Public Health Agency of Canada immunization tool.
- For information on your child’s health while travelling, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada's website.
- The CPS has also published a book for parents called Your Child’s Best Shot: A Parent’s Guide to Vaccination.
Reviewed by the following CPS committees:
Infectious Diseases and Immunization Committee
Last updated: October 2011