Scheduling vaccines 'frustrating' without family doctor

Mary Willock's family doctor moved away and now her son, who is one, is going to have to wait until the end of the year to get his 12-month vaccines.

Mary Willock says her 1-year-old son's 12-month vaccines will be delayed by 2 months

When children in Nova Scotia turn 12 months old, they're due for three vaccines: the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, the meningococcal group C conjugate vaccine and the measles-mumps-rubella-varicella vaccine. (The Associated Press)

Mary Willock's son Ben turns one on Thursday, but he's not going to immediately get his 12-month vaccines because the family doesn't currently have a family doctor.

The Willocks are among the 33,216 Nova Scotians waiting for a new family physician after their doctor moved.

"We're going to be coming into a flu season, a holiday season. … The more you go out in public, [there's] more people around. It's not a good time of year," said Willock, who lives in Eastern Passage. "It's frustrating."

According to the province's health guidelines, when children turn 12 months old, they're due for three vaccines: the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, the meningococcal group C conjugate vaccine and the measles-mumps-rubella-varicella vaccine.

Late shots

Trying to find out where her son can get his shots has been a source of frustration for Willock. She said there should be a central place to go where parents can find a list of all the walk-in clinics that offer the vaccines.

Instead, she said she's had to call around to different walk-in clinics herself.

The earliest Ben could get the shots through her local public health clinic, in nearby Burnside, was Dec. 27, she said. But she's since found a walk-in clinic that can offer the shots next week.

Mary Willock's son Ben turns one on Thursday. (Submitted by Mary Willock)

Ben was also two months late getting his six-month shots.

"We had planned a trip to Ontario, flying, and I was concerned because children are vulnerable," she said. "Their immune systems — there's a schedule for when they should receive them for a reason.

"It made me really apprehensive to be travelling with him, knowing that he hadn't had his vaccines at that time."

Willock's two-year-old daughter managed to get her shots before their doctor moved.

"I would like them to have a family doctor so they can actually start building relationships, start understanding going to the doctor is supposed to be helpful and not shuttling back and forth between people they're not familiar with," she said.

NSHA responds

Nova Scotia's public health offices offer different immunization services across the province for people who can't access them through a family practice, a spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Health Authority told CBC News in an email.

Ways in which the services are provided vary and are based on need in the area, with some offices offering regular clinics and others offering them on an appointment-only basis.

In some instances, public health is able to direct families to practices willing to provide these early childhood vaccinations.

"It is important that any family who has members without a health-care provider registers to find a family practice," said Lesley Mulcahy, a senior communications adviser with public health.

"Once you are able to find a family practice, you can provide your personal immunization record [yellow card] to your doctor to ensure they have your full immunization history."


  • An earlier version of this story said Mary Willock's son, Ben, wouldn't be getting his 12-month vaccines until Dec. 27. She's since found a clinic that will deliver his shots on time.
    Oct 19, 2017 10:44 AM AT

About the Author

Anjuli Patil


Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.