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Do I have to vaccinate my kids?

Getting a vaccine. - iStockphoto, courtesy Getty Images

While vaccinations are strongly encouraged, there’s no law forcing parents to immunize their kids.

Generally, Canadians have the right to refuse any medical treatment they don’t want and parents act as substitute decision-makers for minors. The vast majority of parents choose immunization, but the growing interest in alternative medicine and popular, but widely-discredited theories about vaccine risks are leading more parents to abstain from shots.

Parental disagreement on shots has resulted in legal battles. In 2015, an Ontario court sided with a father who wanted his daughter immunized against the wishes of a mother who opted for homeopathic medicine and believed vaccines cause autism.

Generally speaking, family courts aim to act in the best interests of a child, and are unlikely to side against modern medicine.

While there are no laws to compel immunization, some provincial laws say kids cannot attend school without certain shots. Ontario and New Brunswick both require extensive vaccinations, including shots for tetanus, polio, measles, whooping cough, and chicken pox. However, loopholes exist in both provincial laws, since they also allow exemptions for anyone objecting to vaccines on medical or philosophical grounds.

In the event of a school outbreak, exempted kids may be required to stay home.

Read more:

A Parent's Guide to Vaccination Government of Canada

Measles outbreak: The loopholes in Canada's Vaccination Laws CBC News