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Immunizations for Babies and Toddlers 

Vaccines are an important part of healthy growth and development. Think of them the same way you would healthy eating, physical activity, or proper sleep.

Vaccines are a proven and safe way to prevent serious infections. Although we rarely see most of these diseases in Canada now, they still exist. If we stop vaccinating children, these diseases will return. Vaccines sometimes even prevent death.

Vaccines help your body to help itself. Your body will make antibodies when you get a vaccine. Antibodies help your immune system to identify and destroy a virus. This will protect your baby or toddler and those around them.

Most vaccines are given by injection. Some are given orally (in the mouth). New types of vaccines, such as nasal sprays and skin patches, make them less painful for some patients.

Ontario's Publicly Funded Immunization Schedule

Ontario's Publicly Funded Immunization Schedule informs parents what vaccines your baby or toddler needs. It also lets parents know when their child should get their vaccines. "Publicly funded" means that there is no cost for your child to get these vaccines. They are funded to help protect public safety.

See the full Publicly Funded Immunization Schedule (PDF).

What vaccines do my baby or toddler (birth to 3 years) need?

Your baby will need several vaccines before the age of 2. From the moment of birth, babies begin to develop antibodies. They also have some antibody protection provided by the mother. Babies have not yet developed antibodies to all the germs that are part of the environment. Vaccines will help protect your baby from diseases that can cause serious harm and even death.

The schedule below will help you know what vaccine your child needs, and when:

2 months and 4 months
6 months
12 months
15 months
18 months

You will need to get the vaccines listed above from your healthcare provider. If you do not have a healthcare provider, you can get them from a walk-in clinic.

Report all your child's vaccinations to Ottawa Public Health. Ottawa Public Health keeps a record of your child's vaccinations to help protect public safety. This is important if there is ever a disease outbreak.

See the full Publicly Funded Immunization Schedule (PDF)

Stay in the know. Learn more about:

Diphtheria

Diphtheria is a serious disease of the nose, throat and skin.

Diphtheria can cause:

  • fever
  • sore throat
  • swollen glands
  • difficulty breathing
  • heart failure
  • paralysis
  • death

Complications include breathing problems, heart failure and nerve damage. Diphtheria kills about 1 of every 10 people who get the disease. It is most often passed to others through coughing and sneezing.

Prevent diphtheria by getting the vaccine.

Learn more about the Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) - a five-in-one vaccine.

Tetanus

Tetanus is a serious disease. The germs make spores that live in soil and dust. You may get the disease if dirt with the tetanus germ gets into a cut in the skin. Tetanus germs are found everywhere, usually in soil, dust and manure. Tetanus does not spread from person to person.

Tetanus causes cramping of the muscles in the neck, arms, legs and stomach. It may also cause painful convulsions which may be severe enough to break bones. Even with early treatment, tetanus kills 2 out of every 10 people who get it.

Getting your tetanus vaccine is the only way to prevent the disease.

Learn more about the Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) - a five-in-one vaccine.

Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

Pertussis is a common disease. The infection causes prolonged coughs in youth and adults. Pertussis is most serious for babies. This cough can cause a person to vomit or young babies may even stop breathing for a short period of time. The cough can last for weeks. It can be hard to eat, drink or even breathe.

Pertussis can cause other serious problems such as:

  • pneumonia
  • brain damage
  • seizures

Pertussis spreads from an infected person to others through coughing or sneezing. Adults are the main source for pertussis infection in babies and young children. Infected adults and youth can pass on the disease to infants who have not yet had their immunization vaccines. These infants will not be fully protected. They are at greater risk of serious problems.

Prevent pertussis by getting the pertussis vaccine.

Learn more about the Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) - a five-in-one vaccine.

Polio

Polio is a dangerous disease that people can get from drinking water or eating food contaminated with the polio germ. It is also spread from person to person. This disease can cause nerve damage and can paralyze a person for life.

It can paralyze muscles used for breathing, talking, eating and walking. It can also cause death. Although polio has been eradicated in the Americas, there is still a risk of catching this disease through travel or from cases coming from abroad.

There is no cure for polio, only treatment. Prevent polio by getting your vaccine.

 Learn more about the Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) - a five-in-one vaccine.

Influenza Type B (Hib)

Even though "influenzae" is a part of its name, the Hib germ does not cause influenza. Before the Hib vaccine was used, the Hib germ was a common cause of serious infections in children. Hib was the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in children two months to five years of age.  Meningitis is a serious infection of the fluid and lining that covers the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can cause brain damage, learning and developmental problems, deafness and blindness. One out of 20 children with meningitis can die and serious disability (nerve damage, deafness) occurs in about 15 percent of cases.

The Hib germ also causes a serious infection of the throat near the voice box. This infection is called epiglottitis. This can make it difficult for the child to breathe. The Hib germ can also cause infection of the lungs (pneumonia) and bone and joint infections.

Children under five years are more likely to get Hib disease. Children who attend childcare centres are even more likely to catch it. The Hib germ spreads to others through coughing and sneezing.

Learn more about the Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) - a five-in-one vaccine.

Measles

Measles can be a serious infection. It causes:

  • high fever
  • cough
  • rash
  • runny nose
  • watery eyes

Measles lasts for 1 to 2 weeks. 1 out of every 10 children who has measles develops ear infections or pneumonia (lung infection). About 1 out of every 1,000 children with measles develops encephalitis, an infection of the brain. This may cause brain damage and developmental delays. Measles can also make a pregnant woman have a miscarriage or give birth prematurely.

Measles is very contagious. It spreads from person to person easily and quickly. People can get measles from an infected person through coughing or sneezing around them or simply talking to them. It is contagious 4 days after the onset of rash and up to 4 days after.

Prevent the spread of measles through getting the vaccine. People who contract measles will need to be isolated to control the spread.

Learn more about the Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) - three-in-one vaccine.

Mumps

Mumps is a virus that causes:

  • fever
  • headache
  • painful swelling of the cheek, jaw and neck

It usually happens in children between 5 and 9 years of age, but can also affect very young children. It can develop into encephalitis, an infection of the brain. Mumps meningitis does not usually cause permanent damage. Recently, there have been disease outbreaks among teens and young adults.

Mumps can cause:

  • Painful, swollen testicles in about 1 out of 4 teenage boys or adult men
  • Painful infection of the ovaries in 1 of 20 women
  • Increased risk of miscarriage during the first 3 months of pregnancy
  • Deafness in some people

People can get mumps from an infected person coughing or sneezing around them or simply talking to them. It can also spread through contact with the saliva of an infected person.

Prevent mumps by getting the vaccine.

Learn more about the Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) - three-in-one vaccine.

Rubella

Rubella is usually a mild illness in children. Up to half of the infections with rubella occur without a rash.

Rubella may cause:

  • fever
  • sore throat
  • swollen glands in the neck
  • rash on the face and neck
  • temporary aches and pains and swelling of the joints (common in teens and adults, especially females)
  • temporary blood clotting
  • encephalitis, an infection of the brain

Rubella can be followed by chronic arthritis (inflamed joints). 

Rubella is most dangerous for pregnant women. If a woman gets rubella in the early part of a pregnancy, it is likely that her baby will develop congenital rubella syndrome. Her baby can be severely disabled or die.

Rubella spreads by contact with an infected person through coughing, sneezing or talking to them. It can also be spread by contact with the saliva of infected people.

Prevent rubella by getting the vaccine.

Learn more about the Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) - three-in-one vaccine.

Varicella (Chicken Pox)

Chickenpox/varicella is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Many parents will have had chickenpox. You may know it as a red rash with blister. The chickenpox vaccine is now provided to all children as part of the routine immunization schedule. It is required to attend school for children born in 2010 or later.

Children with chickenpox may have:

  • fatigue
  • a headache
  • fever up to 39°C
  • chills
  • muscle or joint aches (a day or two before the red rash begins)
  • raised itchy red blisters that can be anywhere on the body

Blisters dry up and form scabs in 4 to 5 days. Complications of chickenpox can include:

  • skin, ear and spinal cord infections
  • pneumonia
  • encephalitis, an infection of the brain

This risk of complications increases with age.

Chickenpox spreads easily from person to person. It is passed from an infected person to others through coughing, sneezing and even talking. You can also get chickenpox if you touch a blister or the liquid from a blister.

Prevent chickenpox by getting the vaccine.

Learn more about the Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine.

Invasive Pneumococcal Disease (IPD)

IPD is a bacterial infection that causes any of the following:

  • pneumonia (lung infection)
  • bacteraemia (infection of the blood)
  • meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord)

These infections can cause death or long lasting issues like deafness. Pneumococcal infection is also a frequent cause of ear infections.

The bacteria spread through droplets in the air from coughing or sneezing. Bacteria can also spread through the saliva of an infected person. Sharing common items can spread the bacteria. Some items include:

  • beverages (bottles, straws)
  • eating utensils
  • chewing on toys

Sometimes antibiotics do not work well against these bacteria. This is called antibiotic resistance. When there is antibiotic resistance, it is more difficult to treat the infection.

Prevent IPD. Get the vaccine.

Find out more about the Pneumococcal conjugate-13 vaccine.

Meningococcal Disease

Meningococcal disease (MD) is caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis. About 10% of people carry the bacteria in the back of their throat or nose, although most people never get sick. MD makes the lining of the brain and spinal cord swollen (meningitis). It can also cause a bad infection of the blood.

MD spreads through direct contact with the spit or mucous of an infected person. This might happen when:

  • kissing
  • sharing eating utensils
  • sharing drinking glasses or water bottles
  • sharing cigarettes

It is NOT spread by being in the same room or breathing the same air as someone who has MD.

Prevent MD:

  • Get the Meningococcal conjugate-C vaccine
  • Do not share personal items such as eating utensils, drinking glasses or water bottles
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water

Find out more about the Meningococcal conjugate-C vaccine vaccine.

Rotavirus

Rotavirus is a common infection that causes vomiting and diarrhea in infants and children. Rotavirus is very contagious. It spreads easily from children who are already infected to other infants, children and sometimes adults. Most children are infected with rotavirus at least once by 5 years of age.

Symptoms include:

  • fever
  • vomiting
  • frequent watery diarrhea
  • stomach pain which may last from 3 to 8 days

It is rare, but some children under 2 may have diarrhea so severe that it requires a hospital visit.

Symptoms appear about 24 to 72 hours after a person has been exposed to the rotavirus infection.

In infants and children, rotavirus can lead to loss of body fluids (dehydration). This may require a visit to the emergency department or admission to a hospital. Intravenous (IV) fluids may need to be given. Children with weakened immune systems may experience more severe illness for a longer period of time.

Prevent rotavirus. Get the vaccine.

Find out more about the Rotavirus (PDF)  vaccine.

 

Your child's immunization record

Keep a record of your child's immunization. Your child's doctor will give you a record of all your child's vaccinations. Update their little yellow book each time your child gets a vaccination.  

This record is important. Keep it in a safe place with other documents, like birth certificates and passports. 

You may need your immunization record for:

  • Traveling to countries where the diseases are common
  • Going for emergency health care
  • Going to summer camp
  • Transferring to a new school in another area (when your child is older)
  • Starting daycare or kindergarten

Report all your child's vaccinations to Ottawa Public Health. This includes those given by your healthcare provider. Ottawa Public Health keeps a record of your child's vaccinations to help protect public safety. This is important if there is ever a disease outbreak.

Helpful tips to reduce pain during vaccination

Getting a vaccine will be a new experience for your baby. Your toddler might be a bit afraid. Here are some helpful tips to reduce the pain of a vaccine. Give it your best shot!

For babies

Breastfeed

  • Breastfeed your baby 5 minutes before the injection, as well as during and after vaccinations, to reduce pain and to provide comfort.

Breastfeed to minimize vaccination pain - 2 months

 

Breastfeed to minimize vaccination pain - 6 months

Hold comfortably

  • Hold the baby close to your body, in a front-to-front position with both legs exposed. This reassuring close contact can help to reduce pain. 

Offer sugar water

  • For babies 12 months of age or less, who are not breastfed, give a few drops of sugar solution (on the tip of the infant's tongue) one minute before the injection. Repeat administration of a few drops of sugar solution just before the injection. The sweet solution provides a few minutes of pain relief during vaccination.
  • Purchase a pre-mixed sugar solution at a pharmacy or prepare one at home by mixing 5 mL (one teaspoon) sugar with 10 mL (two teaspoons) water. Do not use honey.
  • Never use sugar water at home to calm a fussy or crying baby, as this can lead to tooth decay.
  • Feed your baby or give sips of water to clean the baby's mouth after vaccination.
For toddlers

Prepare your child ahead of time

  • Read stories about what happens when you visit the doctor.
  • Offer an honest explanation about what to expect.  Prepare young children (under 4 years of age) just before the injection. Prepare older children the day before.
  • Describe how vaccination will feel (for example, like a pinch).
  • Tell your child what they can do to ease the pain (for example, sit still, breathe deeply, relax the arm).
  • Draw your child's attention away from the needle. This is one of the best ways that you can help your child. 
  • Distract your child with a favourite toy or blanket, a book, music, singing, or telling a joke or a story.

Distract your child

  • Draw your child's attention away from the needle. This is one of the best ways that you can help your child. 
  • Distract your child with a favourite toy or blanket, a book, music, singing, or telling a joke or a story.
  • Tell your child to take a deep breath and to blow it out slowly. Blowing bubbles or blowing on a pinwheel can help also. 

Position your child in an upright position

Hold your young child securely in a comforting hug, sitting upright on your lap, facing forward, or facing you (front to front), with the arm exposed.  Lying flat on their back during an injection, or being held too tightly, can be scary for children and can increase their fear. Older children can sit alone if they wish, with the arm exposed.

If your child continues to move, ask your healthcare provider about the proper hold technique that is safest for your child.

Do you have more questions?