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Getting a vaccine

Find out what to expect when you get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Last updated: April 10, 2021

On this page you will find

  1. Registering for the vaccine
  2. What to expect when you get the vaccine
  3. Your second dose
  4. After getting the vaccine 

Registering for a vaccine

The following groups may now register to book a vaccine appointment through the Get Vaccinated system:
  • People born in 1961 and earlier (60 and older)
  • Indigenous peoples (First Nation, Métis, Inuit) 18 and older
  • People who are clinically extremely vulnerable
Register one of three ways:
  • Online at, 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 can get the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine at eligible pharmacies with vaccine supply throughout the province.

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 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.

Pain or fear associated with vaccinations can cause stress and anxiety for many adults. Get tips on managing a fear of needles.
  • Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and COVIDSHIELD COVID-19 vaccines require 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

Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and COVIDSHIELD COVID-19 vaccines require two doses. It is important to get both doses for long-term protection. 

  • 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. 
  • 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. You should not get a second dose sooner than the time recommended by vaccine manufacturers.
  • B.C.'s approach is in line with recommendations from Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) to extend the interval between doses to 16 weeks or 4 months. 
  • Learn more about the evidence and the decision to defer the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine in B.C. - updated March 3, 2021.
  • If you receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine (mRNA vaccines), your second dose should be with the same product. If you cannot determine what product was used for the first dose, the second dose may be given with the mRNA vaccine available.
  • The AstraZeneca and COVISHIELD vaccines are interchangeable, however they should not be used with other COVID-19 vaccines such as the mRNA vaccines.

After your vaccine

mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna)

Click the images to open and learn what to expect after you get an mRNA vaccine


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COVISHIELD and AstraZeneca vaccines

Click the image to open and learn what to expect after you get a COVISHIELD or AstraZeneca vaccine.

Side effects are common a day or two after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. 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.
Most side effects are not serious and should go away on their own, however, you may feel sick. Some side effects are a sign that your body is reacting to the injection and your immune system is building a response.

You can apply a cool, damp cloth or wrapped ice pack to painful areas. If needed, you can take medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen if you wish to ease discomfort. ASA (e.g. Aspirin) should not be given to anyone under 18 years of age.

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. 

Some of the side effects of the vaccine are similar to symptoms of COVID-19. The vaccine will NOT cause or give you COVID-19.

Symptoms such as sore throat, runny nose, cough or problems breathing are NOT side effects of the vaccine.

If you experience any symptoms of COVID-19, use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool.

If you are worried about your symptoms, contact your health care provider or call 8-1-1.

Serious side effects after getting the vaccine are rare. Seek medical attention or call 9-1-1 right away if you develop any serious side effects or a severe allergic reaction including:

  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face, tongue or throat
  • Difficulty breathing

Let them know 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 Vaccination Aftercare handout for mRNA vaccines.

When to seek medical attention
If you develop the following symptoms starting four to 20 days following immunization with COVISHIELD, seek assessment at an emergency department:
  • Severe headache that does not go away
  • Seizure
  • Difficulty moving parts of your body
  • Blurry vision that does not go away
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • New severe swelling, pain, or colour change of an arm or a leg
  • Abnormal bruising, reddish or purple spots or blood blisters under the skin, or bleeding beyond the site of vaccination.

Tell the health care providers that you received the COVISHIELD COVID-19 vaccine and give them the date you were vaccinated.

If you have received the COVISHIELD vaccine and it's more than 20 days since you've received it, there are no concerns. 

Learn more from the Vaccination Aftercare handout for COVISHIELD and AstraZeneca vaccines.

B.C. has paused the use of COVISHIELD and AstraZeneca vaccines in people under the age of 55 until more information is available about abnormal bleeding and clotting after vaccination. Learn more about the change in use of the COVISHIELD and AstraZeneca vaccines.

Remember these are very rare events and so far none have been reported in people who received the COVISHIELD or AstraZeneca vaccines in B.C. or Canada.

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. 

It takes about two weeks after getting the first dose of vaccine to build immunity to the virus. It is important to get both doses of the vaccine to protect you against COVID-19. 

If you are exposed to someone with COVID-19 before or during this time, you may not yet be fully protected and you can still get COVID-19. 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 is important to continue to follow public health guidelines. This includes:

  • Cleaning your hands regularly
  • Maintaining a safe physical distance
  • Wearing a mask
  • 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.



SOURCE: Getting a vaccine ( )
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