What is immunization?
- Immunization (vaccination) saves lives and prevents serious illnesses.
- Vaccines help the body make its own protection (antibodies) against certain diseases.
- Most vaccines are given by injection, but some are given orally (in the mouth). New ways of giving vaccines are being developed, such as nasal sprays and skin patches.
Remember tocontactOttawa Public Health every time your child is vaccinated.
Are vaccines safe?
- Immunization is very safe and effective! Vaccines are one of the most rigorously researched and monitored areas of medicine.
- Every medical intervention has risks, including vaccination, but serious side effects are rare.
- Common side effects include soreness, redness, slight swelling at the injection site and a low fever.
Why is immunization important?
- Immunization protects children from some serious diseases that can make them very sick and even cause death.
- It also protects against potentially serious complications of the diseases.
- Although we rarely see most of these diseases in Canada now, they still exist. If we stop vaccinating children, these diseases will return.
- Children in Ontario must be immunized to attend school or daycare.
- If you decide not to immunize your child due to medical, religious or philosophical reasons, you must arrange a legal exemption with Ottawa Public Health.
Keep an immunization record
- Your child’s doctor will give you a record of all your child’s vaccinations. This needs to be updated each time your child is given a vaccination.
- This record is very important and should be kept safe with other documents such as birth certificates and passports.
- Proof of immunization is needed when starting daycare or school in Ontario.
- Immunization records may be needed for travelling outside the country, going to summer camps, starting university or college, and for many occupations.
Serious diseases that can be prevented with immunization
- DIPHTHERIA causes fever, sore throat, swollen glands, difficulty breathing, heart failure, paralysis and death.
- TETANUS (Lockjaw) causes painful muscle spasms and/or breathing failure that can lead to death. It is caused by bacteria and spores in the soil that can infect wounds. Vaccination is the only way to prevent this infection.
- PERTUSSIS (Whooping Cough) causes severe coughing spells that persist for weeks or months. It can also cause pneumonia (a lung infection), ear infections, convulsions (seizures), inflammation (swelling) of the brain and death. The risk of complications is greatest in children younger than one year of age.
- POLIO causes paralysis, inflammation of the brain, and death. People get polio from drinking water or eating food contaminated by the poliovirus. It is no longer common in Canada because of high immunization rates, but cases do occur elsewhere in the world. People may be exposed to it when travelling.
- HAEMOPHILUS INFLUENZAE B (Hib) causes ear infections, breathing problems, damage to joints, pneumonia and meningitis (infection of the brain and spinal cord that can result in brain damage and death).
- PNEUMOCOCCAL DISEASE causes ear infections, meningitis, pneumonia and septicemia (an infection of the blood) that can result in death.
- ROTAVIRUS causes vomiting and severe diarrhea. It is very contagious and often leads to hospitalization, especially in young children.
- MEASLES causes a rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and watery eyes. It can also cause ear infections, pneumonia, inflammation of the brain, hearing loss, brain damage and death.
- MUMPS causes fever, earache, headache, and painful swelling of the glands in the mouth and neck. It can cause inflammation of the brain, and temporary or permanent deafness. Another possible complication is swelling of the ovaries in females or testes in males, which can cause infertility.
- RUBELLA causes fever, rash, swelling of the neck glands, and swelling and pain in the joints. If a pregnant woman gets rubella, it can cause growth and development problems in the unborn baby and miscarriage.
- MENINGOCOCCAL DISEASE causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, and infection of the blood and other organs. It can progress quickly. Symptoms include headache, high fever, stiff neck, rash and other flu-like symptoms. It can result in blindness, deafness, seizures, amputation of infected limbs and death.
- VARICELLA (chicken pox) causes fever and a rash of itchy blisters. Complications can be serious and include skin infections, pneumonia, infection of the brain, and death.
- HEPATITIS B can cause serious liver problems, such as liver failure and liver cancer, which can lead to death. A vaccine against Hepatitis B is free to Grade 7 students and certain high-risk groups, including infants born to mothers infected with Hepatitis B.
- HUMAN PAPILLOMAVIRUS (HPV) is the most common type of sexually transmitted infection in Canada and causes cancer of the cervix, vagina and vulva. It also causes genital warts. Most HPV infections have no signs and symptoms. Most infections occur in people younger than 25 years of age. Vaccination against HPV is almost 100% effective when given prior to sexual activity and is free for Grade 8 girls.
- INFLUENZA is a viral infection that causes cough, high fever, chills, headache and muscle pain. It can lead to pneumonia, ear infections, heart failure and death. The severity of this infection varies from year to year and can be mild to life-threatening. In Ontario, anyone six months of age and older can get the vaccine every fall at no charge.
Learn more about the benefits and risks of immunizations
Canadian Paediatric Society, Caring for Kids, Immunization
Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care - Immunization
Ontario’s Grade 8 HPV Vaccination Program
Public Health Agency of Canada - Immunization and Vaccines
World Health Organization - Immunization
Find more information on all the publicly funded vaccines in Ontario, and how they can keep you and your family healthy.
Ottawa Public Health Vaccine Preventable Diseases Program
Mail: 100 Constellation Drive,
Ottawa ON K2G 6J8
Toll free: 1-866-426-8885