What you need to know

print this page

If you choose not to vaccinate your child, or to delay vaccines, here's what you need to know:

Vaccine-preventable diseases can be serious and even deadly

It is strongly advised that children get all of the recommended vaccines and that they get them on time. 

Please discuss your concerns with your child’s doctor or public health nurse. A decision not to vaccinate not only puts your child at risk but also your family and others.

Vaccines prevent diseases that can cause serious illness, long-term disability and even death. Many of these diseases have no treatment or cure, and vaccines are the only protection. Below are some of the serious effects of vaccine-preventable diseases:

  • Pertussis can cause pneumonia, seizures, brain damage and death
  • Meningococcal infection can cause meningitis, an infection of the lining that covers the brain, and septicemia, an infection of the blood
  • Mumps can cause permanent deafness
  • Measles can cause swelling of the brain which can lead to brain damage and death
  • Polio can cause paralysis

Vaccine-preventable diseases are still a threat

Some parents choose not to vaccinate their children because they believe vaccine-preventable diseases are no longer a threat. However, several of these diseases, such as pertussis, meningococcal disease and mumps still occur in small numbers in Canada. Others, such as measles and polio, are common in other countries. They are only a plane ride away. Without protection from vaccines, these diseases would spread quickly here and outbreaks would occur.

You cannot always avoid vaccine-preventable diseases

Any unvaccinated child is at risk of getting a vaccine-preventable disease. Even if you minimize contact with people who are ill, you may not be able to prevent your child from coming in contact with a vaccine-preventable disease. For example: 

  • An unvaccinated child can get measles by simply breathing the air in a room where someone with measles has been.
  • Tetanus is caused by a bacteria found in dirt, dust, and soil. A child can get tetanus if they have a cut or scrape on their skin that comes in contact with dirt, dust, or soil containing the bacteria.
  • Many people who are infected do not have any symptoms, but may still infect your child. It’s impossible to tell who is contagious.

Unvaccinated children are more likely to get a vaccine-preventable disease than vaccinated children

Unvaccinated children have a much greater chance of getting a vaccine-preventable disease than children who have been vaccinated. This is the case even in countries with high vaccination rates.


  • Measles outbreak in the Fraser Valley: In 2014, the Fraser Valley experienced the largest measles outbreak in B.C. in almost 30 years. It was thought to be caused by a traveller from the Netherlands, where another outbreak was occurring. Low immunization rates in one community allowed measles to spread quickly, resulting in over 400 cases of measles.

Not vaccinating your child also puts your family and others at risk

When you choose not to vaccinate your child, you not only put your child at risk, but also your family and others.  Those most at risk include:

  • Newborn babies who are too young to get vaccinated.
  • People with weakened immune systems, for example those receiving treatment for cancer.
  • People with chronic health conditions.

Communities depend on high vaccination rates to keep vaccine-preventable diseases from spreading. The more people who are vaccinated, the lower the risk for everyone.


Date last updated: 
Monday, Nov 20, 2017
Date last reviewed: 
Wednesday, Nov 01, 2017