Like many Canadians, I turned to my family doctor to tell me when I needed to get my son vaccinated for childhood illnesses. As with many health-related things, timing is crucial when it comes to vaccinating children.

Canadians who travel need to get vaccines that are required for the country they are visiting. Timing is also crucial in receiving vaccines to prevent illness while abroad.

We are offered various vaccinations to prevent illness as we journey through adulthood. In fact, preventing disease through vaccination is a lifelong process, but how is one expected to access vaccinations and keep track of what you and your child(ren) are vaccinated for if you do not have a doctor?

Clearly, you will have to organize it yourself. Not to worry, we’ve got you covered.

Childhood Vaccinations

Soon after birth, you will need to get your child vaccinated against specific illnesses, and you will need to stay up to date with vaccinations as they grow. The schedule may differ depending on the province or territory you live in, but regardless of where you live, all required childhood vaccinations are covered by your provincial medicare.

Immunizations are not mandatory in all of Canada; however, in Ontario and New Brunswick, proof of immunization is required for children to attend school. In order to avoid suspension in these provinces, parents and guardians must show that their children are inoculated against diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, meningococcal disease, whooping cough, and – for children born in 2010 or later – chickenpox.  The exception would be where there is proof of a valid exemption. 

The flu shot is recommended annually for all children 6 months and older. All children 6 months of age and older are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in Canada.

See here for children’s vaccine schedule across the country. Print it out and keep it handy as a reminder.

It’s great to know the timing of when your baby needs to get vaccinated, but without a family doctor, how do you proceed? Head straight to your public health unit.

Below is a list of public health units by province and territory.

BC: https://immunizebc.ca/finder#8/49.246/-123.116

AB: https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/findhealth/service.aspx?id=4811

Sask: https://www.saskatchewan.ca/residents/health/public-health/public-health-offices

Man: https://www.gov.mb.ca/health/publichealth/offices.html

ON: https://www.ontario.ca/page/public-health-unit-locations

PQ: https://www.msss.gouv.qc.ca/en/reseau/regions-sociosanitaires-du-quebec/

NB: https://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/departments/ocmoh/healthy_people/content/public_health_clinics.html

NS: https://www.nshealth.ca/public-health-offices

PEI: https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/topic/public-health

NL & Labrador: https://www.gov.nl.ca/hcs/publichealth/

Nunavut: https://gov.nu.ca/health/information/health-centres

Yukon: https://yukon.ca/en/find-hospital-or-health-centre

Northwest Territories: https://www.hss.gov.nt.ca/en/hospitals-and-health-centres

Adult Vaccines

If you’re pregnant, it is recommended that you be vaccinated against whooping cough (pertussis), flu and RSV.

Adults should receive the diptheria and tetanus vaccine every 10 years and pertussis (whooping cough) once as an adult other than during pregnancy.

The shingles vaccine is free of charge for Ontarians 65 and 70 years of age who have no medical reason to not receive it. Take advantage of this window in time as the Shingrix vaccine costs around $160/dose. Some health insurance plans may cover the cost of the vaccine, however with two doses needed, it’s a good idea to take advantage of the coverage period. Unfortunately, Ontario is the only province that currently offers and public coverage for the vaccination.

People 65+ should also receive the pneumococcal vaccine. Coverage for this differs by province and product.

The newest COVID and RSV vaccines will soon hit pharmacies and public health facilities, along with the yearly flu shot. COVID and flu vaccines are covered by provincial medicare across Canada, while RSV is currently only covered for people in LTC homes in Ontario only. You will need a prescription for the RSV vaccine, and the cost is not covered by provincial medicare.

See here for a full overview of adult vaccines in Canada. Provinces and territories differ in how they provide vaccines, and which are covered. As with children, if you do not have a family doctor, head over to your local health unit to get your vaccines.

Travel Vaccines

About six weeks before you travel, visit your healthcare provider or a travel health clinic to plan and receive your travel vaccinations if and as necessary.

Vaccines you need will depend upon where you are going. The Canadian government has a very handy online service that allows travelers to find specific vaccines required for each location.

Some vaccinations such as the Yellow Fever vaccine are mandatory for entry into some countries. Make sure you know the regulations for where you are travelling and get your certificates of vaccination where needed.

Private travel health clinics exist to help Canadians get vaccinated while heading abroad. For peace of mind, check consumer reviews before choosing which company to work with. Travel-related vaccines are not covered by provincial medicare; however, many private insurance plans will cover the cost.

It’s ideal if you have a family doctor to guide you through your lifelong vaccination journey, but sometimes it’s not enough, especially if your doctor is not staying on top of the latest recommendations. 

And if you don’t have a family doctor, there’s only one person you can depend on to ensure that you’re keeping up with vaccinations. 

In both cases, that’s you, and we’re here to help.

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