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Informed consent for immunization

Date last reviewed: 
Wednesday, Jun 21, 2023

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What is informed consent for immunization?

Informed consent is required for immunization. When you provide informed consent, it means that you:
1. Have been given information about:
  • The vaccine that you or your child will get. 
  • The benefits of getting immunized.
  • The risks of not getting immunized.
  • Common and expected side effects.
  • Rare but serious side effects.
  • Medical reasons not to get the vaccine.
2. Understand the information.
3. Have been given a chance to ask questions.
4. Give permission for the immunization to be given.

Who can provide informed consent for a child?

Consent for a child to be immunized can be provided by a:
  • Parent, legal guardian, or foster parent
  • Custodial caregiver (when a child is in the day-to-day care of an adult other than a parent, and that individual makes health care decisions for the child, they may consent to immunization. For example, a relative who is raising the child). 
Only one parent, legal guardian, or foster parent is required to give consent. You'll be asked to provide consent at the appointment.
For vaccines given at school, parents will receive a package from their child's school containing a consent form and information on the vaccines their child needs. It's important to read all the information in the package, sign the consent form, and return it to your child's school.
Call your local health unit or speak with your health care provider if you have any questions.
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I am not able to take my child to their appointment.

If you can't take your child to their appointment, you can give authority to another adult to give consent for your child’s immunizations. 
A note must be provided which includes the following information:
  • Name of parent/legal guardian giving authority to the other adult. 
  • Child’s name and date of birth. 
  • Name of the person given authority to consent.
  • Date and signature of parent/legal guardian who has given their authority to other adult. 
  • Parent/legal guardian's contact information.

Mature minor consent

It is recommended and encouraged that parents or guardians discuss consent for immunization with their children.
The Infants Act states that children under the age of 19 can provide consent to a medical treatment on their own if the health care provider is sure that the treatment is in the child's best interest, and that the child understands the details of the treatment, including the risks and benefits. This includes providing consent for immunizations.  A child a health care provider assesses as being capable of giving consent is called a "mature minor."
Although there is no set age for when a child can give mature minor consent for immunizations, in most circumstances, parents or guardians give consent for children 12 years of age and younger to be immunized. However, there may be extenuating circumstances in which a child of this age may provide their own consent. Older children are given the opportunity to consent for themselves. 
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When parents disagree

In most cases, parents agree to vaccinate their children. But some parents disagree. This Q&A addresses common questions parents have when they disagree on vaccinating their children.

For this Q&A, the term ‘parent’ is used for parents or guardians who have equal authority to provide consent for the child.

Q. Is consent from both parents needed to vaccinate a child in B.C.?
A. No. Consent from only one parent is needed to vaccinate a child in B.C.  Therefore, if one parent brings a child to a clinic and wants them vaccinated, the health care provider can give the vaccine(s).  However, before a child is vaccinated, it is recommended that:
  • Parents discuss their child’s vaccinations with each other.
  • Hesitant parents have the chance to discuss their questions or concerns with their child’s health care provider
Q. What does the law say when parents disagree on vaccinating their children?
A. Case law to date (law based on decisions made by judges in the past) suggests that the courts put significant weight on public health recommendations about vaccination. This means that if public health officials have determined that a vaccine is safe and that the benefits to a child of being vaccinated outweigh any risks, and if a child’s health care provider recommends vaccination, the court will likely determine that vaccination is in a child’s best interest.


Q. What happens if one parent has refused vaccination in the past?
A.  A refusal of an offer to vaccinate a child is only valid with respect to that offer and does not apply to future offers of vaccination. Thus, another parent may bring the child to a clinic at a different time and request that the child be vaccinated, and the health care provider may give the vaccine(s).
Q. If one parent decides on their own to get their child vaccinated, should they tell the other parent?
A. It is desirable that a parent who consents to vaccination for a child tells the other parent about the vaccination(s). The other parent may:
  • Need this information at a future medical visit for the child or if there is an outbreak. 
  • Find out about the vaccination(s) through other means, such as a school consent form or the child.  
Q. Can a child consent to vaccination on their own? 
A. Depending on a child’s maturity,  a child may be able to consent to vaccination on their own. Children under the age of 19 can legally consent to vaccines if they can understand:
  • What vaccination is.
  • The benefits and possible reactions to the vaccine.
  • The risk of not getting vaccinated. 
This is called “mature minor consent.” It is up to the health care provider to decide if a child is capable of giving consent. 
Q. What do parents who choose not to vaccinate need to know?
A. Parents who choose not to vaccinate often do so to avoid risk. But these parents need to know that choosing not to vaccinate is the riskier choice. Without vaccines, children are at risk for diseases that can cause severe illness, long-term disability, and even death.