Vaccination

Disclaimer: The following information pages are provided for educational purposes only. They are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you have questions or concerns, please discuss them with your doctor or healthcare provider.

What is vaccination or immunization?

Immunizations protect you from several serious, life-threatening infectious diseases. You should have vaccines (or "shots") according to the schedule recommended for your province, state, or country. For more specific information, contact your doctor or the local public health unit for your community.

Vaccines are generally made with one of the following:

  • Purified components from dead viruses or dead bacteria
  • Weakened viruses or bacteria (These are “live attenuated vaccines”)

Vaccines “teach” your body’s immune system how to battle against the nasty viruses or bacteria that the vaccine is intended to prevent. That way, if you encounter the nasty viruses, your body won’t likely get sick. Even if you indeed get sick afterwards, it will not be nearly as serious. That is why everyone should receive the proper vaccines.

For patients with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q)

You need to make sure your immune system is good enough to deal with the live attenuated vaccines. You should discuss this with your doctor before getting immunization with these vaccines:

  • measles
  • mumps
  • rubella
  • varicella
  • intranasal influenza vaccine (the "flu mist")
  • yellow fever

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Vaccines…You mean I need to get needles?

It is true that most vaccines come with needles. However, vaccination happens very quickly. One tiny bit of pain and you are done with the needle!

You may feel a bit of soreness in your arm for a few days. Please check with your doctor to see if you can take medicine to deal with this soreness.

This tiny little pain and soreness is pretty easy to deal with when compared to how sick you can get if you don’t get the vaccines.

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When do I have to get needles?

Please check with your doctor to see what vaccines you need. Hopefully, you have received the vaccinations you were supposed to get as a baby/toddler and a school-aged child.

Vaccines for Teenagers in Ontario

VaccineWhen to receive
Meningococcal conjugate (Men-C-ACYW)Grade 7
Hepatitis bGrade 7
Human papillomavirus (HPV)Grade 7a

aGirls in Grade 8 in Ontario have been receiving the HPV vaccine for free since 2007. Beginning in September 2016, all boys and girls in Grade 7 will now be able to receive the vaccine for free. For boys and girls who are unable to get all the recommended doses at Grade 7, this vaccine is available free of charge until the end of Grade 12.

Vaccines for Adults in Ontario

VaccineWhen to receive
Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussisOnce in adulthood
Tetanus, diphtheriaEvery 10 years
Flu shotOctober or November every year
PneumococcalAt age 65
ShinglesOne dose between age 65 to 70b

bShingles vaccines are available for everyone over 50 years old, but OHIP covers the cost of this vaccine for people who are between 65 and 70 years old.

Please visit Ontario’s Routine Immunization Schedule for details.

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Why do I need a flu shot every year?

The flu is caused by viruses that change and adapt quickly. A flu vaccine made last year will not offer enough protection against the viruses that may make you sick this year. You should get a flu shot every year so your immune system can protect you from the newest variety of flu viruses.

The flu vaccine in the needle-form is NOT a live attenuated vaccine. Only the intranasal flu vaccine (the "flu mist") is live. Please discuss with your doctor to see if the mist form is suitable for you.

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Where do I get vaccines?

Where you get vaccines depends on the actual vaccines you need. In general, you can get them at:

  • Doctor’s offices (usually family doctors’ and pediatricians’ offices)
  • Public health units
  • Pharmacies (usually for flu shots)
  • Schools (meningococcal conjugate, hepatitis b, and human papillomavirus (HPV))

Please check with your doctor for more information.

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Special considerations

Travel

Certain viruses are much more common in some countries than in Canada. If you plan to travel to another country, please check the Canadian government’s travel website or a travel clinic to see if you need to get special vaccines before you leave.

Pregnancy

If you are pregnant, please check with your doctor about the vaccinations you can and cannot receive.

Immune deficiency

If your immune system is severely weakened, please check with your doctor about the vaccinations you can and cannot receive.

Allergy

If you are allergic to certain components of the vaccine, please check with your doctor about the vaccinations you can and cannot receive. If you have a previous allergic reaction to vaccines, please definitely inform your doctor before further vaccinations.

22q

Individuals with 22q can receive vaccines that contain dead viruses and dead bacteria. Whether you can receive vaccines with weakened viruses / bacteria (which are alive) is dependent on your immune system. Please check with your doctor about the vaccinations you can and cannot receive. In particular, the flu vaccine in the needle-form is not a live attenuated vaccine. Only the intranasal flu vaccine (the mist form) is live. Please discuss with your doctor to see if the mist form is suitable for you.

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Do I have to pay to get vaccines?

Most vaccines in Ontario are provided free of charges to Ontario residents. There are some vaccines that people can buy from a pharmacy (with a doctor’s prescription), a doctor’s office, or at travel clinics.

If you live outside of Ontario, please check with your regular doctor.

A note about HPV vaccine eligibility

Effective 2016-2017 school year, all students (both boys and girls) in Grade 7 are eligible for the HPV vaccine through school-based clinics. Previously, the vaccine was offered to Grade 8 girls only.

Girls beginning Grade 8 in the transitional 2016-2017 school year will still be able to receive the two-dose HPV vaccine in school-based clinics to ensure they don't miss the opportunity to be immunized.

Students in Grade 7 who are unable to begin or complete the HPV vaccine series in the 2016-2017 school year are eligible to catch-up on missed doses, free of charge, until they finish Grade 12.

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Do vaccines have side effects?

Yes, but most side effects are mild. Like any medications, there is a very small chance of severe unexpected reactions. However, the chance of an unvaccinated person getting the illness itself is a lot higher than the chance of a vaccinated person getting unexpected reactions.

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