The second dose is the essential second half of your vaccine series. Both doses are needed to get the most effective protection against serious cases of COVID-19 and provide longer-lasting protection. It’s important that you complete the vaccine series. You are not fully protected until you’ve had both doses.
Watch a video with Dr. Nel Wieman, Deputy Chief Medical Health Officer (First Nations Health Authority) about getting a second dose.
Video: Why it is important to get both doses
In clinical trials for both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, there were higher rates of commonly reported side effects for the second dose compared with the first dose. This is because the immune system has learned the information from the first vaccine and can be an indication that it’s responding in a stronger way to the second dose. These side effects are short-lived and most go away within two to three days. Some people do not have any side effects after the vaccine; this is also normal and does not reflect the level of immunity provided.
The most common side effects reported for mRNA vaccines are redness, swelling or itchiness at the injection site, and headache and tiredness. These are all common side effects for vaccines in general.
In Canada, serious side effects, which may result in hospitalization for example, were reported by less than 0.01% of Moderna or Pfizer recipients. Learn about
reported side effects
For any of the vaccines approved in Canada, the risk of serious side effects is very low.
All vaccines approved in Canada and available in B.C. are safe and effective and will help protect you against COVID-19. The vaccine you are offered is based on a variety of factors including what products are available, your age, health conditions or allergies, where you’re getting your vaccine and more.
People eligible to get their first or second dose will get either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at a mass clinic and do not get a choice between the two. Both vaccines are safe, use comparable mRNA technology, and are similarly effective.
Some pharmacies in B.C. are able to administer a first dose of AstraZeneca to anyone 18 years and older who cannot receive an mRNA vaccine.
Find a pharmacy.
- Mixing similar vaccines from different manufacturers is safe and effective. Similar vaccines from different brands are often used interchangeably including those for hepatitis A and measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines. There are standards in place to determine safety of mixing vaccines.
- Moderna and Pfizer BioNTech are mRNA vaccines and work the same way. If you’ve received a first dose of one mRNA vaccine and are offered the other for your second dose, it is safe to receive it.
- There are multiple clinical trials and population studies of vaccine mixing taking place in countries around the world, including Canada. Results from Germany, the UK and Spain have shown the effectiveness and safety of a mixed series. We also have real world evidence to support the process; so far over 2 million people in Canada have received a combination of COVID-19 vaccines. Canada began allowing combination COVID-19 vaccination schedules in early June and the number of COVID-19 cases and the
rate of reported adverse events have continued to trend downward.
- Two doses are required to be fully immunized and for long-term protection.
If you received one or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in another province or country:
You may be getting lots of questions about COVID-19 vaccines.
Here are our top tips on what to say.
Credit: Fraser Health Authority
Find translations of this resource
The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines have been approved by Health Canada for use in people 12 and older. Young people aged 12 to 17 can register and get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Further clinical trials in babies and children under 12 are ongoing. The vaccine is not yet available to younger children.