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.
Check out our new section on COVID-19 Vaccines
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:
- intranasal influenza vaccine (the “flu mist”)
- yellow fever
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.
When do I have to get needles?
Vaccines for Teenagers in Ontario
|Vaccine||When to receive|
|Meningococcal conjugate (Men-C-ACYW)||Grade 7|
|Hepatitis b||Grade 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
|Vaccine||When to receive|
|Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis||Once in adulthood|
|Tetanus, diphtheria||Every 10 years|
|Flu shot||October or November every year|
|Pneumococcal||At age 65|
|Shingles||One 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.
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. Please visit the Government of Ontario’s flu website to see where you can get the flu shot and how you can avoid getting the flu. It is safe to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu shot at the same time, so if you’re receiving your flu shot and still have yet to receive a first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, now is the time. Please see our COVID-19 vaccine page for more information. The Outpatient Pharmacy at the Toronto General Hospital offers both the COVID-19 vaccine (call ahead) and the flu vaccine (walk in) from 9 am to 5 pm on weekdays, subject to availability.
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.
What is the difference between a cold and the flu?
(Information from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention)
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.
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.
If you are pregnant, please check with your doctor about the vaccinations you can and cannot receive.
If your immune system is severely weakened, please check with your doctor about the vaccinations you can and cannot receive.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Vaccine Facts from the Ontario Medical Association
Let’s get our vaccine information from physicians. Here is a vaccines fact sheet from the Ontario Medical Association.