Your responsibilities with an unimmunized child

Date last reviewed: 
Thursday, Mar 16, 2023

On this page:

If you choose not to immunize your child, please follow these steps to protect your child, your family, and others.

If your child visits a health care provider while ill

  • Tell the medical staff that your child is not immunized. If your child has received some vaccines, let the medical staff know which ones.
  • When your child is being evaluated, the doctor will need to consider the possibility that your child has a vaccine-preventable disease, which may affect what tests they do. 
  • If your child may have a vaccine-preventable disease, precautions can be taken (such as isolating your child) so that the disease does not spread to others.
East Asian children playing and smiling oudoors.

If there is a vaccine-preventable disease in your community

  • Consider getting your child immunized. Getting immunized when an outbreak is already happening is better than never. Talk to your child’s doctor or a public health nurse.
  • Your child may be asked to stay home from school, childcare, or organized activities, such as sports and playgroups, until it is safe to return. Be prepared to keep your child home for up to several weeks. This is to protect both your child and others. 
  • Learn about the disease and how it spreads. It may not be possible to avoid exposure.

If your child is exposed to a vaccine-preventable disease

  • If you know your child has been exposed to a vaccine-preventable disease and they are unimmunized, contact your child’s doctor or local health unit for advice.
  • Learn what symptoms to watch for and when to seek medical attention.
  • Each disease is different, and the time between when your child might have been exposed to a disease and when they may get sick will vary. Your child’s doctor or public health nurse can tell you when your child is no longer at risk of developing the disease.
  • Follow recommendations to separate your child from others.
  • There may be medications for people who have been infected or exposed to certain vaccine-preventable diseases. Ask your health care provider.
  • Ask your health care provider about other ways to protect your family members and anyone else who may come into contact with your child.
  • You may get a call from your local health authority. Every health authority has a team that follows up on cases and contacts of certain diseases. 

Travelling with an unimmunized child

  • Before travelling, learn about the disease risks in the country you are travelling to and the recommended vaccines. Many vaccine-preventable diseases that are rare in Canada, such as measles and polio, are still common in other countries.
  • Consider having your child immunized before travelling.
  • If your child gets sick while travelling, there may not be the same quality of medical care as at home. 
  • If your child develops a vaccine-preventable disease while travelling, they should not travel by plane, train, or bus until a doctor determines they are no longer contagious (able to spread the disease to others).
  • In certain instances, public health authorities may prevent people with vaccine-preventable diseases from travelling, due to the risk of disease spreading.
Adapted from:
If You Choose Not to Vaccinate Your Child, Understand the Risks and Responsibilities (World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe).