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 or 6-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).

For tips on how to make vaccines as pain-free as possible:

  • Reduce the pain of immunization in babies: A guide for parents or watch this video.
  • Reduce the pain of immunization in kids and teens: A guide for parents or watch these videos.

Routine childhood immunization schedule

Age at vaccination 2 mos 4 mos 6 mos 12 mos 18 mos 4-6 yrs 9-13 yrs 14-16 yrs












Rotavirus7 2 or 3 doses between 6 weeks and 32 weeks of age


X2  or   X2



Hepatits B3 Infancy or


      X   X    
Pneumococcal X X X X        

Meningococcal conjugate5


(12 years)


All children over 6 months 1-2 doses





  1. Haemophilus influenze type b (Hib) requires a series of immunizations. The exact number and timing of each may vary with the type of vaccine used.
  2. Two-dose programs for MMR are given in all provinces and territories. Second dose MMR is given either at 18 months or 4-6 years of age. If the child is past the age at which the second MMR vaccine is recommended, the second dose can be given 1-2 months after the first.
  3. Hepatitis B requires a series of immunizations. In some jurisdictions, they may be administered at a younger age.
  4. Children should get 2 shots for chickenpox; the first when they are 12 to 18 months of age and a second when they are 4 to 6 years of age. In some provinces, the second dose is given at 18 months. If the child is past the age at which the second dose of chickenpox vaccine is recommended, the second dose can be given 1-2 months after the first. The vaccine is given 1 month apart for older children. It is not recommended for children under 1 year old.
  5. The specific age that your child will be offered the vaccine through the provincial or territorial immunization program depends on your jurisdictions program.Children at higher risk for meningococcal infection (children with no spleen or who have certain medical conditions) should receive MCV-C, MCV-4 and 4CMenB starting as early as 2 months of age. Adolescents should get a booster dose of MCV-4 or MCV-C at about 12 years of age, even if they got a dose as an infant
  6. For girls only. The second dose is given 2 months after the first, and the third dose after 6 months.
  7. Your child will need 2 or 3 doses depending on the vaccine. Doses are given at least 4 weeks apart.
  8. Most children get a 5-in-1. Your child will receive hepatitis B as a separate vaccine either in infancy or early adolescence. In some provinces, your child may receive a 6 in 1, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis B, poliomyelitis (polio) and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). Your doctor will tell which vaccine is used in your province or territory.

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