To Vaccinate or Not To Vaccinate - That is The Question

Chickenpox, Hepatitis A and B, HPV, Mumps, Diphtheria, Influenza, Measles, Polio, Meningococcal, Pneumococcal, Rubella, Tetanus, Rotavirus, Whooping Cough, Mumps and now Covid-19... Oh my that’s a lot of preventable diseases to choose to vaccinate against or not. 

It’s normal for parents and caregivers to have questions about vaccines. It’s also completely normal for organizations to have questions about what to do if a parent chooses not to vaccinate their child. As a quick and easy resource, we’ve gathered some of the questions along with responses and resources from trusted sources to help answer those questions below. 

Ultimately, however, we encourage all parents and caregivers to do further research and speak to professional doctors when deciding to vaccinate or not. We also encourage all organizations to seek legal counsel when determining whether to admit or not to admit based on vaccination history. The truth is that vaccinations are a complex and multi-layered challenge and this article is meant to be a resource but not an exhaustive list. 


What are vaccines and why are they important?

We are exposed to thousands of germs every day in our environments. Our bodies and immune systems typically can fight most germs, but there are some deadly diseases our bodies can’t fight. Vaccines use very small amounts of antigens to help your immune system recognize and learn to fight serious diseases. Antigens are parts of germs that cause the body’s immune system to go to work. Think about it this way: getting a disease or getting a vaccine can both give you future protection from that disease. The difference is that with the disease you have to get sick to get that protection. With the vaccine you don’t. It’s always better and safer to prevent a disease than to treat it after it occurs. For more information visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at


What vaccines are recommended for children and when?

For more information about recommended child and adolescent immunization schedules for birth to 18 years of age, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at or speak to a health care professional. Additional details can also be found at


Can vaccines harm a child if they get multiple ones all at the same time? Do they even need to get them at all?

There is no evidence that suggests that receiving several vaccines at one time can harm a child or their immune system. Giving your child the vaccine according the schedule recommended by your doctor protects them as soon as they receive it. There is no data to support the idea that spacing out vaccines offers a safer or more effective protection against these diseases. Visit for more information. 


Are these diseases even that dangerous? I haven’t even heard of some of them before?

Thanks to vaccines, many of the diseases mentioned above have almost been irradicated or at least forgotten about. However, they are very dangerous and life threatening. While some diseases are rare or nonexistent in developing nations, they still exist in other parts of the world. If you travel, or someone you know travels, they could come in contact with the disease, and expose you or your children. For more information about the dangers of these diseases visit or


What about side effects? Shouldn’t I be worried about the side effects from these vaccines?

It’s absolutely reasonable to be concerned about the possible reactions or side effects from vaccines. It is important to note though that most of them are minor, treatable and only last a few days. While you should keep your eyes open and watch for possible side effects, medical staff are prepared to deal with serious vaccine reactions and can share information with you about how to respond. Furthermore, vaccines are not linked to increases in health problems such as autism, asthma, or auto-immune diseases.  For more information visit 


What if I choose not to vaccinate my children?

As a parent, if you decide not to vaccinate your child, you are responsible to inform your child’s school/childcare facility/caregivers about your child’s vaccination status. It is also your responsibility to notify your doctor’s office, urgent care facility, ambulance personnel or emergency room staff about your child’s vaccination status. They need to know so they can consider the possibility that your child may have contracted a vaccine-preventable disease so they can treat your child as quickly as possible and also protect others who may have a weakened immune system. It is also your responsibility to isolate your child during an outbreak so that the disease does not spread to your child and others who have weakened immune systems or infants who haven’t fully been vaccinated yet. Finally, it is your responsibility to be cautious when traveling. You can look up countries where you could be exposed on the CDC website. You can find that information at For more information on your responsibilities visit 


Should our organization have a policy in place regarding vaccines?

Yes, we would recommend that your policies include procedures regarding immunizations. We would caution organizations from restricting access to children that have not been immunized, as this could result in a parent taking you to court for discrimination.  However, you can request to be notified of children who have not been immunized. This information will be used to protect all children who have and who have not been immunized.


Based on information provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada, Plan to Protect® recommends that you:

1. Inform all parents of any kind of breakout of a disease or contagious illness;

2. Request that all children who have not been vaccinated stay home from the programs until such time as the breakout has been cleared; 

3. Any child who is showing signs or symptoms of illness should not be admitted into the programs, until they have been seen by their doctor and cleared of any disease, or contagious illness;

4. Any child with the contagious disease or illness should not be admitted back into the programs until they are treated and the doctor has declared that they are no longer contagious.


The Public Health Agency states that there is little need for concern for those that have been immunized but struggle with low immunity as they are being protected due to the vaccinations.  The primary concern is protection of those children who have not been vaccinated.


The Public Health Agency of Canada also provided us with some general information regarding vaccinations:

Immunization is one of the most effective interventions available to prevent and control vaccine-preventable diseases.  While immunization is important in all stages of life, many parents are not aware that infants and young children are particularly susceptible to vaccine-preventable diseases because their immune systems are not mature enough to fight infection.  Older children and adults also require immunization to restore waning immunity and to build new immunity against diseases that are more common in adults.


Immunization directly protects individuals who receive vaccines and also prevents the spread of infection in the community.  This “herd immunity” indirectly protects infants who are too young to be vaccinated; people who cannot 

be vaccinated for medical reasons; and people who may not adequately respond to immunization.


In Canada, immunization is a shared responsibility among the federal, provincial, and territorial governments.  The federal government is responsible for regulating vaccines, monitoring vaccine safety, and providing evidence-based recommendations on the use of vaccines in Canada.  The provinces and territories are responsible for funding, planning, and delivering immunization programs in their respective jurisdictions, including child/youth-serving organizations implementing childhood immunization requirements.


Depending upon the nature of your programs and facility, your organization’s policy regarding immunization may vary, especially if children in your program are immuno-compromised and therefore particularly vulnerable.  We encourage you to discuss this matter further with your provincial and/or local public health authority.  Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care contact information can be found at the following web link: 


Still have questions? Check out the following resources for more information and support: 


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - -

The History of Vaccines: An Educational Resource by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia - 

American Academy of Pediatrics - 

American Academy of Family Physicians - 

World Health Organization - 

Health Canada and Public Health Agency of Canada Resources - 

*Previously published in PROTECT publication issue 7.

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