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COVID-19 vaccination at a glance

Last updated: April 8, 2021


What is the COVID-19 vaccine? 

  • Vaccines are products that produce immunity to a specific disease like COVID-19. When you are immune to COVID-19 that means you can be exposed to it without becoming sick or if you do become infected, it prevents more severe illness.
  • Vaccines save lives. Vaccines don't just protect the people getting vaccinated; they protect everyone around them too. The more people in a community who are vaccinated and therefore protected from COVID-19, the harder it is for it to spread.
  • Five vaccines have been approved in Canada: the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD and Janssen (owned by Johnson & Johnson) vaccines. Several other vaccines are being developed.
  • The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines.
  • The AstraZeneca and COVISHIELD vaccines and Janssen vaccine are viral vector vaccines.
  • Learn more about the vaccines for COVID-19.  

When will I be able to get the vaccine?

  • B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan will happen in four phases. The focus at first is to protect those most vulnerable to severe illness.
  • Vaccines will primarily be distributed by age, starting with the oldest. People with certain underlying conditions will also be included. 
  • We are currently in Phase 3 of the immunization plan. Find information about the four phases and when you will be eligible to be vaccinated.
  • Check gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated regularly to know when it is your turn to register to book a vaccine appointment.
  • Everyone who would like a vaccine and who is eligible to receive one will be able to receive a first dose before July 1, 2021. 

How can I register to get a vaccine?  

The following groups may now register to book a vaccine appointment through the Get Vaccinated system:
  • People born in 1956 and earlier (65 and older)
  • Indigenous peoples (First Nation, Métis, Inuit) 18 and older
  • People who are clinically extremely vulnerable
Register one of three ways:
  • Online at gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated, available in 12 different languages
  • By telephone through a provincial call centre (toll-free) at
    1-833-838-2323, available in 140 different languages
  • In-person at the nearest Service BC location.
Check regularly to know when it is your turn to register. Please wait until your age cohort is called to register.

People age 55 to 65 living in Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions can get the AstraZeneca/ COVISHIELD vaccine at eligible pharmacies with vaccine supply.

Find an eligible pharmacy near you

 

If you are a front-line priority worker, vaccine appointments will be organized by employers. You do not call your local health authority. Appointment information will be communicated clearly and directly to each sector and employer.

 

What do I need to know about the decision to pause the use of AstraZeneca and COVISHIELD vaccines in people under 55?

  • B.C. and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommend that the AstraZeneca and COVISHIELD vaccine be used in people over the age of 55 for the time being.
  • Earlier this month, some European countries stopped using the AstraZeneca vaccine while looking into a small number of reports of serious blood clots after vaccination. These events happened primarily among women under the age of 55.
  • B.C. has paused the use of this vaccine in younger populations until more information is available. 
  • Overall, these blood clotting events are very rare, and none have been reported in B.C. or Canada following vaccination; however, adverse events continue to be monitored very closely.

If you have already received a COVISHIELD vaccine and have questions about the signs and symptoms of the rare but serious blood clots after vaccination, please refer to Vaccination Aftercare

I am pregnant or breastfeeding, have an allergy or a medical condition, can I get the vaccine? 

Nearly everyone will be able to safely receive the COVID-19 vaccine, although a very small number of people may need to avoid vaccination due to severe allergies to parts of the vaccine. Vaccine manufacturers identify a number of precautions because these populations were not included in the original vaccine trials. 

Learn more about what you need to know before getting a vaccine.

What are the side effects?

It is not unusual to experience some side effects after you get the vaccine. Side effects are typically mild to moderate and usually go away on their own. These can include:

  • Pain, redness, itchiness or swelling in the arm, where the vaccine was given
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the armpit
  • Tiredness or headache
  • Fever and chills 
  • Muscle or joint soreness 
  • Nausea and vomiting.

Will I get to choose which vaccine to get?

All vaccines approved in Canada and available in B.C. are safe and effective and will help protect you against COVID-19. In clinical trials, those who had received a vaccine were significantly less likely to become sick with COVID-19. While some people may still get COVID-19 after they have been vaccinated, all vaccines have been shown to have a high level of protection against serious illness and death. 

People eligible to get their vaccine in Phase 3 will get either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and do not get a choice between the two. The AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccines don’t require freezer temperature storage and handling and can be used in the community. They will be used in people 55 to 65 years old.

People who are priority front-line workers who are offered a vaccine through their workplaces can either get it there, or choose to wait and get their vaccine with their age group.

B.C. recommends you take the vaccine that you are offered so you are protected as soon as possible. The sooner people have been immunized in our community, the harder it becomes for the virus to spread. That protects us all.


When will I be able to get my second dose?

In B.C., while vaccine supplies are limited, the time between first and second dose will be extended so more people can receive their first dose. This will save lives and prevent hospitalizations. Learn more about the second dose.

Is the vaccine available to children?

Vaccines are tested in adults before being tested in children. The vaccines available in British Columbia at this time have been tested in adults and approved for use in adults.

The vaccines are not yet recommended for most children, although clinical trials in people under the age of 18 are now underway.

Immunization record

You will have the option to receive a paper and digital copy of your immunization record card. By registering for Health Gateway, you will be able to access your digital immunization record card.

Your immunization record will be also be stored in the online provincial database, accessible to you, public health and your doctor.

Once I'm vaccinated, when do I become immune and how long does it last?

 

Should I wait a while to make sure it’s safe?

It’s up to you whether you want a COVID-19 vaccination. Feeling worried or hesitant is completely normal when something is new, however we can be reassured that Health Canada has a thorough approval process that ensures the safety of the many vaccines and medicines we take routinely. This rigorous process will be used before any vaccines are approved for use in Canada.

  • Several vaccines being developed use the same technology as vaccines that have already been used successfully for other diseases. Approval is happening quickly because Health Canada shortened the administrative and organisational process. The safety approvals have not changed. The requirements for safety data in the clinical trials are as stringent as the regular processes.
  • There’s always a small chance of side effects, no matter the drug or vaccine you’re taking. Serious side effects are assessed in clinical trials. Thousands of people have already taken the vaccine through these trials. Once the vaccine is approved and begins to be used in a larger population, surveillance and evaluation continues to identify any events that are less frequent. This is true of all vaccines. The province monitors the adverse events following immunization through the immunization surveillance system and reports to the national and global safety surveillance systems. Health Canada also monitors vaccines continuously after roll-out.

You are likely talking about vaccination with your friends and family. You may have heard stories about people having a reaction or adverse event after getting a vaccine. While sometimes these things can happen after vaccination, it is rarely because of the vaccine. Getting vaccinated is important. Given the serious health consequences of COVID-19, the low likelihood of a serious reaction to a vaccine is outweighed by the benefits to you and your loved ones.

Where can I find more questions and answers about the COVID-19 vaccine?

Visit the ImmunizeBC website to find frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccination




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