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Immunization - Babies and Preschool Children

Having your baby immunized is one of the most important things you can do to keep them safe from disease. Vaccines have saved the lives of many babies and children around the world in the last 50 years, more than any other type of medical intervention.1

 

Germs in your baby’s environment

You can try to decrease the germs in your baby’s environment, but there is no way that you can protect your baby from all of them, especially when your baby leaves the house. Your baby can be exposed to thousands of germs every day from toys, the environment, food, siblings and other people surrounding him. The antigens in vaccines (which are activated or inactivated particles of diseases) are very small in amount compared to other germs the baby is around every day. Immunizing your baby protects from certain germs that may cause severe illness and complications.1


Your Baby's Immunization Card / Record

You need to keep an immunization record for your baby! This is their record of all vaccines given and will be needed when they go to daycare or school. Keeping an accurate record will ensure that all vaccines are given on time, and avoids unnecessary doses. Starting your baby with an online record with Public Health will help to store your information in a safe place. You can access it at any time, enter dates of vaccines that were given, print and save your record on your computer. and see which vaccines are due next.  

Publicly Funded Immunization Schedule in Ontario

Vaccines from the Ontario Immunization Schedule are free for residents of the province, and for newcomers. Learn more →


How are vaccines given to babies?

Vaccines are given with a very thin needle to minimize pain. They are given into the muscle of the leg for babies under a year of age, and into the arm muscle or into the subcutaneous (fatty) layer above the muscle in babies over the age of one. There is one vaccine that babies get that protects against rotavirus which is a sweet liquid that babies can swallow. Read the Parent's Guide to Vaccination →


What can I do to help during the experience?

There are many ways to help your baby or child during the immunization experience. There are ways to distract them so that they are not focusing on the pain or the needle. The actual immunization is very quick, most babies don’t feel it at all, but they cry afterwards because they feel some pressure in their muscle. Hold your baby still and close to you (breastfeeding helps), and they will be comforted by being with you. Talk in a soothing tone, but don’t apologize! You are doing what is best for your baby. There is no need to give your baby acetaminophen or ibuprofen before the needles. You can give it afterwards, just if they have a fever, pain, or are very fussy. These are all normal side effects that mean the vaccine is working! Learn more about pain management during immunizations for children →


Why do babies get more than one dose of the same vaccine?

Babies and toddlers need “booster” doses of vaccine to keep their immune levels high as they grow. This helps their body fight off diseases. When given at the right time in the schedule, extra doses give babies the best immunity possible. Babies do gain some immunity before they are born from their mother, if the mother is immune. Once they are born, this immunity stays for a while but slowly goes away as the baby grows. Breastfeeding is also an excellent way to keep giving babies some special immunity, but it cannot work on its own to protect against all diseases.


Why are there so many vaccines? Doesn’t this overwhelm their immune system?

Babies are very lucky in Canada to have vaccines to protect against so many different diseases. Baby’s immune systems easily handle many germs every day. Each type of germ and vaccine allows the baby’s body to practice fighting off the germs. When actual disease germs do occur, the baby does not get sick. Each dose of vaccine increases the baby’s immunity.


Important Notice

It is the parent/guardian's responsibility to provide their children's immunization records to the local public health unit. Don't forget to update the Health Unit when your child gets another shot.


Children in Preschool and Child Care Centres

Ontario immunization programs protect our children in preschools, child care centres, and in the community. With the arrival of vaccines against many diseases, we now see fewer cases of diseases that can cause significant illness and spread quickly through people who are at risk.

Every year the Middlesex-London Health Unit assists preschools and child care centres to review records of their students, to ensure that they are up-to-date, and to remind parents to take children in for needles they are due for. Records need to be held at both the child care centre and at the health unit. The electronic record will be part of their permanent record at the health unit when they begin school. Collecting immunization information helps the health unit manage outbreaks of illness by knowing who may be at risk, or who may need protection.

The law states that children in licensed care need to be immunized against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, haemophilus influenza type B (HiB), chickenpox, meningitis and pneumococcal according to the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014. Failure to send in the information or have children immunized by the dates set by the health unit may result in the child being excluded from care. This is to ensure timely response to the health unit’s request for information, and to decrease possible disease outbreaks. As soon as the child is up-to-date they will be allowed to attend care again. 

Parents will be given a period to time to get their children immunized, to retrieve the information about previous immunizations, and to send the information to the health unit. A final notice will be sent to parents who have not complied with the requests, that may lead to exclusion from the licensed care setting.

Exemptions

Vaccination is the best way to protect children from serious diseases like measles, polio, diphtheria and tetanus in Canada and across the world. Vaccines are safe and effective – and they help the immune system learn how to protect itself against disease. However, some children are not immunized because of serious illness or allergy or due to their family’s philosophical beliefs. To exempt your child for medical or non-medical reasons, please read the vaccine exemption information from our website.

A Parent's Guide to Immunization

Are you a parent or caregiver and have questions about vaccines? A Parent's Guide to Vaccination from the Government of Canada is an excellent online resource to help answer many questions.

 
Date of creation: February 25, 2013
Last modified on: August 9, 2022
 

References

1Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, Immunization Information. Retrieved from
http://health.gov.on.ca/en/public/programs/immunization/default.aspx
2Public Health Agency of Canada Retrieved from
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/im/iyc-vve/index-eng.php