Vaccines for children at school
How to protect children and adolescents from 4 to 17 years old with safe and reliable vaccines.
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Why you should vaccinate
Infectious diseases can spread among children and adolescents at school who are not vaccinated. As a parent, you can keep your kids healthy with routine health care and vaccines. Make sure your school-age children are up-to-date with their vaccinations.
Infection from certain diseases can kill or seriously harm your child. Vaccines use weakened or killed virus or bacteria to trigger your child’s natural immune response to provide long-term protection against a disease (without the risk of getting the disease). It is like a rehearsal for the immune system, so your child is prepared if they are exposed to the "real" disease.
Vaccinations are safe
Vaccinations do not cause autism.
Scientific studies and reviews continue to show no relationship between vaccines and autism.
Some people won’t develop immunity to a disease after being vaccinated, but the vaccine itself cannot infect someone. If a vaccinated individual does contract a disease which they were vaccinated against, their illness will be less severe.
When to get vaccines for your school-age children
Between 4 and 6 years old, children should receive the following vaccines:
In grade 7, children should receive the following vaccines:
Between 14 and 16 years old, teens should receive the following vaccine:
Preparing your child for vaccines
Getting a vaccine can be stressful for some children. With some preparation and kid-friendly explanation, parents can help to make vaccine visits easier and less stressful. Talk to your health care provider or health unit if you have any questions about the vaccine your child will receive.
Prepare your child before the visit. Be honest. Explain that shots can pinch or sting, but that it won’t hurt for long. Tell your child that vaccines are important to keep them healthy.
For younger children
- Hold your child or cuddle them on your lap.
- Use distractions like toys, bubbles, and books.
For older children
- Older children can use distractions like games, books, music, and talking about something unrelated to the vaccination. Deep breathing and/or counting, as well as keeping the arm relaxed and still may help to make the shot easier.
- For children getting their shots at school clinics, tell them to let the nurse know if they feel nervous about getting vaccinated or if they feel faint or light-headed before, during, or after the vaccination. The clinic staff can help them through the process.
Ask your health care provider or local public health unit about using topical anesthetics (medication that numbs the skin).
After the visit, talk to your child about their experience. Let them know that it is normal to feel some mild reactions- like soreness in the arm where the shot was given- that will go away after a day or two. Offer some extra attention if they are feeling discomfort. Praise and reinforce that they are making positive healthy choices. Contact your doctor if anything concerns you.
Unless they have a valid exemption, children who attend primary or secondary school must be immunized against:
- meningitis (meningococcal disease)
- whooping cough (pertussis)
- chickenpox (varicella) – required for children born in 2010 or later
As a parent, you must:
- provide proof of your child’s immunization to your local public health unit
- keep immunization information up to date
Children who do not get immunized are at increased risk of disease. They may be removed from school during a disease outbreak.
Under the Immunization of School Pupils Act, your child can be exempted from immunization for medical reasons or due to conscience or religious belief.
For medical reasons
You must fill out a Statement of Medical Exemption form that has been signed by a physician or nurse practitioner and submit it to your local public health unit. It will indicate the reason for the exemption, such as:
- your child has a medical condition that prevents them from receiving the vaccine
- there is evidence of your child’s immunity to the disease, making further immunization unnecessary
For conscience or religious belief
For your child to be exempted due to conscience or religious belief, you must contact your local public health unit:
- Complete an education session
- Let your local public health unit (PHU) know you wish to have your child exempted from the required vaccines.
- The PHU will:
- advise you on the steps to take in completing a valid exemption, including watching the vaccine education video.
The video covers:
- basic information about immunization
- vaccine safety
- how immunization affects overall public health
- immunization law in Ontario
- answer any additional questions you have about vaccines or about the process for applying for an exemption
- provide you with a signed and dated Vaccine Education Certificate after you have watched the video
- Fill out a form
Complete a Statement of Conscience or Religious Belief form.
Once it’s complete, you must get it signed by a commissioner for taking affidavits in Ontario.
- Make copies for your records
Make copies of your:
- Vaccine Education Certificate
- signed Statement of Conscience or Religious Belief form
You will need to submit the original versions.
It is important that you keep your copies because the ministry and local public health units do not keep records of your exemption documents.
- Submit the originals
Submit the original copies of your Vaccine Education Certificate and signed Statement of Conscience or Religious Belief form to your local public health unit. Contact them to find out how.
Children in licensed daycare centres
If you want your child to attend daycare, and decide not to vaccinate them due to medical, religious or philosophical reasons, you will need to give your daycare a valid written exemption. If the disease appears in your child’s daycare centre, your child may have to stay out of daycare until the disease is no longer present.
Flu vaccine for children and adolescents
The best defense against the flu is to get vaccinated. Unless there is a medical reason not to, everyone aged 6 months or older can benefit from getting the seasonal flu vaccine.
Special medical conditions
If you have special medical conditions or other high risk factors, you may need additional vaccines. Talk to your health care provider or your local Public Health unit about other recommended vaccines.
Immunization school checklist
All children attending school between ages 4 to 17 need to be immunized according to Ontario’s Immunization Schedule.
Download the Immunization School Checklist to keep track of your child’s vaccines.
Children who are not fully immunized may not be allowed to attend school. Check with your health care provider or local public health unit to make sure your child has all the vaccines needed to attend school.