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Getting a vaccine

Find out what to expect when you get a COVID-19 vaccine. You can also find information about what you may need to consider if you have health conditions.
Last updated: February 8, 2021

B.C. is immunizing top priority groups between now and the end of March. People who can be vaccinated at this time will be notified. If you have not been contacted, you do not need to do anything. 

Starting in mid-February, Health Authorities will reach out to seniors 80 years and older and Indigenous seniors 65 years and older and Indigenous Elders to provide information on how to pre-register for immunization appointments for phase 2. More information will be provided in the coming weeks.

Before phase 3 in April, details will be available about when and how to pre-register for a vaccine, online or by phone.
  • By pre-registering, you will be able to reserve an appointment at a clinic.
  • Immunization clinics are expected to be held in more than 170 communities across B.C.
The vaccine will be available for free to everyone who is eligible to receive it in B.C.

Two vaccines are currently in use in Canada: the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines. These two vaccines are mRNA vaccines.  

On this page you will find:


Vaccine considerations



Nearly everyone will be able to safely receive the 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. In the context of ongoing risk of COVID-19, most individuals can be offered vaccination

The Canadian Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology (SOGC), the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) and public health experts in B.C. all advise that pregnant and breastfeeding women can be offered the vaccine. If you have questions, and you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or are breastfeeding, speak to your health care provider about COVID-19 vaccines.
COVID-19 vaccines are not live vaccines, and there are no significant concerns about safety for those with weakened immune systems. It is possible that the vaccine may not work as expected in people who have a weakened immune system. If you have questions, and have a weakened immune system, speak to your healthcare provider about the COVID-19 vaccine.

If you have questions and have an autoimmune disease, speak to your healthcare provider or medical specialist.

 
People who have had COVID-19 should be immunized with COVID-19 vaccines. However, as vaccine quantities are currently limited, those who tested positive for COVID-19 within the last three months are expected to have protection for the short term, and can have their COVID-19 vaccination deferred.

The current COVID-19 vaccines have been tested and approved for use in people over the age of 16 (Pfizer) and 18 (Moderna). Children are not eligible to receive the vaccine at this time.‎

 

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should stay home from the vaccine clinic and use the COVID-19 self-assessment tool  to determine if you need to be tested. If you have a new illness preventing you from performing your regular activities, you should wait to get immunized until you have recovered. This will help to distinguish side effects of the vaccine from worsening of your other illness.‎

 

There are no medical concerns to prevent you from receiving a COVID-19 if you recently received another immunization or will be receiving one soon, and you can receive a vaccine when you become eligible. A health care provider may recommend waiting for a period of time before you receive other vaccines so that if you experience side effects from one vaccine, they are not confused with another. 

 

Who should not get the vaccine

There are very few reasons someone should not get the COVID-19 vaccine. You should not get the vaccine if you:
  • have serious allergies to any of the ingredients in the vaccines. An ingredient in the vaccines that has been associated with a rare but serious allergy (anaphylaxis) is polyethylene glycol (PEG). PEG can be found in some cosmetics, skin care products, laxatives, some processed foods and drinks and other products. There have been no reports of anaphylaxis from PEG in food or drink.
  • have had a life-threatening reaction to a previous dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or to any part of the vaccine. 
  • Talk to your health care provider if you have had an anaphylactic reaction but do not know the cause. 
Review the HealthLinkBC File on COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines for more information before getting your vaccine.


What to expect when you get the vaccine

  • Wear a mask to the clinic and bring your Personal Health Number if you have one. 
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing for easy access to the arm. The vaccine is given by injection into the muscle of the arm, in the shoulder area.
  • The COVID-19 vaccine requires two doses. It is important to get both doses for long-term protection. See below for more information about getting the second dose.
  • Expect to stay in the clinic for 15 minutes after you receive your vaccine so you can be monitored. About one in 1 million people will experience a severe allergic reaction. By staying in the clinic, a health care provider can respond in the event this happens. Tell a health care provider if you feel unwell after your vaccine.
  • Most people will receive an immunization record. Keep your record of immunization as it contains important information about the date and type of vaccine you receive. Bring your immunization card with you when you get your second dose. Some people in the first priority group had this information entered directly into the provincial registry. 
  • You will also have the option to receive a digital copy of your immunization record card. By registering for Health Gateway, you will be able to access your digital record.





Second dose

  • The time between the two vaccine doses recommended by the manufacturer is 21 to 28 days. You should not get a second dose sooner than that.
  • There is good evidence that in the short term, one dose of the vaccine provides very high protection that lasts for weeks. A second dose ensures stronger and longer lasting protection.
  • In general, extending the time between first and second doses does not reduce vaccine protection over the long term and for most vaccines, a slightly longer interval is better. 
  • The World Health Organization and the Canadian National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) support up to 42 days between doses, and other jurisdictions are using a longer time between doses, up to 12 weeks. This allows a greater number of people to receive the important protection from a first dose of vaccine, given limited vaccine supply currently and high rates of COVID-19 transmission. 
  • 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, increasing the benefit of limited vaccine supplies. 


After your vaccine


You may experience side effects for one or two days after you receive the vaccine. Side effects are typically mild or moderate. These include:
  • Pain or swelling in the arm, where the vaccine was given.
  • Tiredness, headache, fever, chills, soreness or nausea and vomiting.
It is not unusual to experience some side effects, and some of them are a sign that your body is reacting to the injection and your immune system is building a response.

These side effects should go away on their own but you can take medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen if you wish to relieve some of them.

The vaccine cannot give you COVID-19. However, if you were exposed to the virus before you got your vaccine, you may not realize you have COVID-19 until after you are vaccinated. 

Health care workers who develop symptoms after vaccination, other than local injection site reactions, should use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool. This will let you know if you need to stay home and get tested for COVID-19. 

Serious side effects after getting the vaccine are rare. If you develop any serious symptoms or symptoms that could be an allergic reaction, seek medical attention or call 9-1-1 right away. Tell your health care provider that you received the COVID-19 vaccine so that they can report this to local public health if they suspect your symptoms were related to the vaccine. Learn more from the Vaccine After Care handout.

  • Both vaccines are about 95 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 after receiving two doses. 
  • Protection, beginning 14 days after one dose of either vaccine, is greater than 90 per cent.
  • The duration of protection is not yet known for one or two doses of the vaccine but is being actively monitored.
  • The vaccine won’t stop everyone from getting COVID-19. For those who do get the virus, it is less likely you will experience severe illness.
  • If you experience symptoms of COVID-19 after you’ve been vaccinated, use the BC self-assessment tool to determine if you need be tested.

After you get a vaccine, it will still be extremely important to continue to practice all the preventive measures that have been recommended, including washing your hands, maintaining a safe physical distance, wearing a mask, and staying home when sick.‎ Everyone who receives the vaccine will still need to follow public health guidance and abide by orders from the Provincial Health Officer.

 

 



 



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