Frequently Asked Questions and Answers About Vaccines

Manitoba has been preparing and planning for the COVID-19 vaccine to arrive. Learn more here.

What are vaccines?

Vaccines are also called needles, shots or immunizations, and they help the body's immune system to recognize and fight bacteria and viruses that can cause disease. Immunization means receiving a vaccine and becoming immune to a disease through vaccination. Vaccination and immunization are often used interchangeably. Some vaccines can protect against more than one disease. These vaccines are known as “combination vaccines.” Giving combination vaccines means fewer needles overall.

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Why are vaccines so important?What are vaccines?

Vaccines have saved more lives in Canada in the last 50 years than any other medical intervention. The success of immunization is evidenced in the drastic drop of vaccine-preventable diseases. A prime example is polio; a polio virus infection can affect the spinal cord or brain, which can result in permanent paralysis or death. In 1950, before the first polio vaccine was available, there were approximately 1,500 cases reported each year in Canada; today, polio has virtually vanished from the Canadian scene and in many parts of the world.

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Where can I get myself, or my child, immunized?

Are you and your child protected?Physicians, public health nurses, pharmacists, physician assistants, nurses and nurse practitioners administer vaccines in public health offices, nursing stations, doctor’s offices, pharmacies, QuickCare Clinics and ACCESS Centres. Every fall, seasonal influenza clinics are offered throughout the province. To find out the best time and place to receive your immunizations and check for vaccine availability, contact your provider.

Public health nurses routinely provide meningococcal, hepatitis B, human papillomavirus (HPV) and tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) vaccines in schools across Manitoba. If your child misses the opportunity to be immunized at school, please talk to your immunization provider.

Pharmacists are authorized to administer vaccines to people 7 years of age and older (physicians, public health nurses, physician assistants, nurses and nurse practitioners can administer vaccines to people of all ages). Pharmacists can provide the following five publicly-funded vaccines: tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap); seasonal influenza; pneumococcal polysaccharide (Pneu-P-23); human papillomavirus (HPV); and, tetanus, diphtheria (Td).  Pharmacists can also provide vaccines that fall outside of Manitoba’s Publicly-funded Immunization Program, such as for travel, occupational health or educational purposes.

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Are vaccines safe and effective?

Vaccines have been shown to be very safe. However, like any medicine, side effects can occur. Before a vaccine is made available for public use, it is rigorously tested for safety and effectiveness. Even after a vaccine is made publicly available, public health officials in Manitoba and across Canada continually monitor for possible adverse events following immunization. If a link is found between a possible adverse event and a vaccine, public health officials take appropriate actions that include determining whether the recommendation for using the vaccine should change.

No vaccine is 100% effective but they can all protect from disease(s) and serious disease complications including death.

Talk to your immunization provider about any concerns you may have about vaccines.

For more information, visit:

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How are vaccines administered?

Most vaccines are given by injecting a needle into the muscle of the thigh in infants or, the upper arm for older children and adults. Some injectable vaccines, however, are given just below the skin rather than into the muscle. Vaccines can also be given by mouth (oral vaccines) or be aerosol spray into the nose.

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How many doses are required?

The number of doses required for an individual depends on the age when immunization is started, the type of vaccine, the risk of being exposed to the disease(s) the vaccine protects against and the reason for the immunization (e.g. preschool boosters at four to six years of age). Some vaccines can be given in one needle while others may need to be given in a series of needles. When more than one needle is required at a time, they are usually given in different locations (e.g. one in each leg or each arm). Not all vaccines offer lifelong immunity and therefore, additional doses of the vaccine, commonly referred to as “booster doses,” are offered at a later time.

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Why give more than one vaccine at at time?

Current studies show that children do not have a higher risk of side effects when they receive more than one vaccine at a time. In fact, a child’s immune system, which fights and protects against infections, is exposed to and is capable of reacting to thousands of germs every day, even before birth. Giving more than one vaccine to a child not only reduces her/her risk of getting sick, it can also help protect family and community members from serious diseases.

It is important for everyone to receive their immunizations on time and as per Manitoba's routine immunization schedule. This is especially true for infants and children as the diseases can be much more serious among young children.

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How long do the immunizations take to work?

Protection from vaccines will not occur immediately. It takes approximately 14 days following immunization for the vaccine to start working.

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How long do the immunizations offer protection for?

Some vaccines have a lifetime protective effect while others are required more frequently in order to protect against current circulating strains of disease (e.g. seasonal influenza) and/or to boost immunity (e.g. tetanus and diphtheria).  

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Who is eligible to receive vaccines free-of-charge?

Manitoba Health (Health) provides publicly-funded vaccines to Manitoba residents who are registered with Health, as per Manitoba's eligibility criteria for publicly-funded vaccines. Publicly-funded vaccines are provided free-of-charge depending on certain age indications, high-risk medical conditions and other risk factors for infection.  

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How are publicly-funded vaccines approved in Manitoba?

Manitoba Health (Health) conducts a full review of provincial epidemiology, vaccine safety, effectiveness and cost effectiveness and looks at the overall impact of a vaccine on disease in Manitoba. Best-practice, evidence-informed information is gathered from current research, other provinces and territories as well as from provincial and national vaccine experts as constituted in Manitoba's Provincial Vaccine Advisory Committee and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. All of these sources of evidence, weighed against other departmental initiatives, are taken into account in developing recommendations for inclusion of new vaccines, or expanded use of vaccines, as part of Manitoba’s Publicly-Funded Immunization Program.

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How can paHow can parents prepare their children?rents prepare their children for receiving immunizations?

Pain and fear associated with needles are usually mild and short lived. While there are no specific techniques to reduce pain and fear, the following activities may help:

Infants (up to age two):

  • Swaddle or hold your baby, exposing the leg or arm where the needle will be given.
  • Let your baby suck a pacifier (if applicable).
  • Breastfeed or offer “sweet solution” (sucrose)
  • Use a puppet or bell as a distraction.

Toddlers and preschoolers:

Before (Do not begin discussions too far in advance as this may increase fear for some children):

  • Explain what is going to happen at the clinic visit and how it may feel. (HINT: Remind the child how she/he dealt in the past with the pain of a bicycle fall or bee sting.)
  • Be honest about what will happen before, during and after the immunization. (“It will hurt a little bit but only for short time.”)
  • Read your child a book or watch a video about a child receiving vaccines.
  • Let the child practice giving an immunization. (HINT: Suggest the child immunize a doll or a stuffed toy with an object that looks like a syringe, such as a drinking straw.)
  • Acknowledge the child’s feelings and give permission to cry. For example, tell the child: “I bet you would rather not get a needle today” or, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could put the vaccines in ice cream?”
  • If more than one child needs to be immunized, the most anxious child (usually older) should be first.
  • Do not threaten the child because she/he may begin to see needles as a punishment.
  • Do not bribe; instead, encourage the child’s efforts.


  • Use distraction techniques (ex: blow soap bubbles – to blow away the pain of the needle; use party blowers – to make noise; make the child laugh with a toy or funny movie).
  • Provide choices (ex: let the child choose the left or right arm; choose to hold a favorite toy).


  • Reward the child. (“Great job! I knew you could do it.”)
  • Remain at the clinic and observe the child for 15 minutes afterwards. This is important in case the child feels unwell, feels faint or – in rare cases – experiences an allergic reaction following the needle(s).
  • Some doctors recommend acetaminophen (Tylenol® or Tempra®) or ibuprofen (Advil® or Motrin®) for fever. Never give acetylsalicylic acid (ASA or aspirin®) to children. A cold damp cloth may also help ease minor pain where the needle(s) was given.

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What are the possible side effects of vaccines?

Vaccines may cause side effects that may last for a couple of days. These include redness, swelling and soreness where the needle was given; headache, chills, fever up to 38ºC, drowsiness (being sleepy), fussiness (being cranky), upset stomach and vomiting (especially for young children). Bad or severe side effects should be reported to your immunization provider.  

Vaccine reactions are recorded and monitored in Manitoba and across Canada. Vaccines offer life-saving protection against serious diseases. The benefits of vaccines are far greater than the potential risks of vaccination.

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Why recommend vaccines if they have side effects?

Every vaccine has potential side effects. Typically they are very mild: soreness at the injection site, headache and low-grade fevers are examples of common vaccine side effects. Serious side effects are possible, including severe allergic reactions. However, the occurrence of serious side effects is extremely rare. When considering possible side effects, it’s important to do so in context and bear in mind that choosing not to vaccinate also has serious risks. Vaccines protect against potentially fatal diseases; avoiding vaccination raises the risk of contracting preventable diseases and spreading them to others.

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Who should not receive vaccines?

There are very few individuals who cannot receive vaccines. Consult your immunization provider regarding whether you should, or should not, receive a vaccine. Each individual situation will be assessed and a decision will be made either to offer the vaccine at the time of the clinic visit, at a later date or not at all.

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What do I need to know before travelling and what vaccines should I receive?

If you are planning a trip, talk to your immunization provider or visit your local travel health clinic at least 6 weeks prior to your expected departure to see what vaccines may be recommended. Vaccines for travel purposes are not publicly-funded by Manitoba Health.

For more information about travel vaccines, advice and advisories, visit:

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Are immunizations mandatory in Manitoba?

No, immunizations are voluntary in Manitoba. But please remember that vaccines help protect you and your child from disease (s) and also help protect others who cannot be immunized because they have certain health conditions. If you want to know more about immunization and why it is important, talk to your doctor or public health nurse.

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Where can I find my (or my child's) immunization records?

Make sure your immunization provider updates your immunization record card or that of your child(ren), after you receive an immunization. Keep the card in a safe place!

Your immunizations or those of your child(ren) will be recorded in Manitoba’s immunization registry. This registry:

  • allows the health care provider to find out which immunizations you or your child(ren) have had or need to have;
  • may be used to produce immunization records, or notify you or your health care provider if a particular immunization has been missed;
  • allows Manitoba Health (Health) and public health officials to monitor how well vaccines work in preventing disease.

If you need information on the immunizations that you or your child(ren) have received, contact your immunization provider.

The Personal Health Information Act protects your information and/or that of your child(ren). You can have your personal health information and/or that of your child(ren) hidden from view from health care providers. For additional information, please contact your local public health office.

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Recommended Immunization Resources

Recommended Immunization Resources:

Available from your immunization provider’s office:

Available at local bookstores:

Available on the Internet:

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Talk to your doctor, public health nurse or call Health Links – Info Santé :
204-788-8200 toll-free - in Winnipeg
1-888-315-9257 - outside Winnipeg