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Getting a Vaccine

Find out what to expect when you get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Last updated: August 25, 2021

On this page:

  1. What to expect at the vaccination clinic
  2. Getting your second dose
  3. Vaccination aftercare
  4. Life after vaccination

What to expect at the vaccination clinic

  • You do not need to fast. Be sure to drink water.
  • Wear a mask to the clinic 
  • Personal Health Number if you have one. You can find your Personal Health Number on the back of your B.C. driver's licence, BC Services Card or CareCard. 
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing for easy access to the arm. The vaccine is given by injection into the muscle on your shoulder.
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 also be stored in the online provincial database, accessible to you, public health, and your doctor.

You can bring one person with you to the vaccination centre for support.

Pain or fear associated with vaccinations can cause stress and anxiety for people. Get tips on managing a fear of needles.

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 the side effects of the vaccine from worsening of your other illness.‎

Whattoexpect.PNGDepending on the vaccination centre you visit, the steps once you arrive may vary. At most sites, the process will work like this:

  1. You’ll be screened at the entry for COVID-19 symptoms.
  2. Your ID will be verified and you’ll be asked to wait for an available immunizer.
  3. For modesty, you can ask for a private location to get your vaccine.
  4. Once you’re with an immunizer, they will ask you to give your consent to be vaccinated. There is no set age in B.C. for when a child or young person can provide consent on their own. Generally, children aged 12 and older can consent to immunizations. To provide consent, a young person must be able to:
      • understand the benefits and risks of vaccination
      • make decisions about their own health.
  5. You will receive your vaccine. The immunizer will give you a piece of paper confirming that you received one dose.
  6. You will be given an Aftercare Sheet to take home with you (posted below for download).
  7. You will be asked to wait for 15-30 minutes in a waiting area after you receive your vaccine to 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.
  8. You can leave the vaccination centre

Pain or fear associated with vaccinations can cause stress and anxiety.


When you get vaccinated, you will receive a paper record of your vaccination and the information will be entered into the electronic Provincial Immunization Registry. 

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 can also access your immunization record online or request a printed copy by phone or at a Service BC office. 

Getting your second dose

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.

Learn more about the importance of a second dose.

You will get an invitation by text, email or phone call to book your second dose appointment about 28 days (or four weeks) after your first dose. You can also get your second dose at a drop-in, mobile or special event clinic if it’s been more than 28 days since your first dose.

If you live or work in a community experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak, get your second dose as soon as you can. If you do not live or work in one of these areas, getting your second dose six to eight weeks after your first dose may provide stronger protection.

Please make sure you are registered with the Get Vaccinated system. If you received your first dose and have not yet registered, do so now to receive a notification to book your second dose. If you have questions or aren't sure if you are registered, phone the call centre at: 1-833-838-2323

Learn more about booking a second dose appointment.

  • If you receive the mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) for your first dose, you will usually be offered the same vaccine for your second dose. However, you may be offered the other mRNA vaccine as the vaccines are very similar. You should not receive an AstraZeneca vaccine for your second dose.

  • Getting two doses is important for long-term protection. It's best to get your second dose when it is available than to wait for the same vaccine product. See more information on mixing COVID-19 vaccines below.

  • If you received the AstraZeneca or COVISHIELDAZ_choiceseconddose.PNG vaccine for your first dose, you made the right choice to get vaccinated with the first vaccine available to you. For your second dose, you can choose to get AstraZeneca or an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna).
  • No matter which vaccine you choose, no safety signals have been detected from mixing vaccine types.

Choosing AstraZeneca vaccine for your second dose


  • There is a very rare risk of serious blood clots associated with the AstraZeneca viral vector vaccine. The risk people who received a second dose is about 1 in 600,000. This is lower than the first dose, which is about 1 in 50,000.
  • The effectiveness of getting AstraZeneca for both doses is similar to the effectiveness of getting two doses of mRNA vaccine in the prevention of serious cases of COVID-19.
  • You are likely to experience milder side effects after getting your second dose with the same vaccine than if you mix vaccines.


Choosing an mRNA (Pfizer or Moderna) vaccine for your second dose

  • There is no risk of serious blood clots with the mRNA vaccines.
  • You may experience more short-term side effects if you get an mRNA vaccine for your second dose.
  • 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 down since then.
    • Both vaccines use comparable mRNA technology.
    • Both vaccines are similarly effective.
    • Both vaccines are safe.

Learn more about the things to consider in making this decision.


For information on how to book a second dose, visit Get Your Second Vaccine Dose.


If you got one or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in another province or country, you must submit proof of an official vaccination record. It will be entered into the Provincial Immunization Registry. 

Submit a vaccination record

If you got your first dose in another province or country, you can also call 1-833-838-2323. The call centre team will help you register for your second dose. Please bring your COVID-19 vaccine immunization record to the clinic for your appointment, so that your first dose can be assessed and recorded.

When you call, you may be asked to provide:

  • The date you got dose 1
  • What vaccine you got, like Pfizer or Moderna
  • The clinic location
  • ‎Mixing similar vaccines from different manufacturers is safe and effective. As part of our many other vaccine programs, 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 the effectiveness and safety of mixing vaccines.
  • Moderna and Pfizer BioNTech are mRNA vaccines and work the same way. If you've received the first dose of one mRNA vaccine and are offered the other for your second dose, it is safe to receive it and it will offer you the same protection.
  • 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 down since then.
  • Completion of a two-dose series is required to be fully immunized and for long-term protection.

Read the National Advisory Committee on Immunization's (NACI) recommendations on the use of COVID-19 vaccines for more information.


Vaccination aftercare

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 (right away and/or 7 days after)
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the armpit
  • Tiredness or headache
  • Fever and chills 
  • Muscle or joint soreness 
  • Nausea and vomiting.
Children are expected to experience similar side effects as adults, though may experience some of them, like headache, chills and fever, more often.

Most side effects are not serious and should go away on their own Some side effects are a sign that your body is reacting to the injection and your immune system is building a response.

Tips for side effects

  • Apply a cool, damp cloth or wrapped ice pack to painful areas. 
  • Take medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) if you wish to ease discomfort. ASA (e.g. Aspirin) should not be given to anyone under 18 years of age. If you are pregnant, do not take ibuprofen; treat discomfort or fever with Tylenol instead.
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. 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. 

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
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling of a rapid or abnormal heart rhythm.

When you see a healthcare provider, let them know that you received the COVID-19 vaccine recently so they can report the issue to local public health if they suspect your symptoms were related to the vaccine. 

If you experience any of these symptoms
  1. Seek medical attention right away
  2. Bring your COVID-19 immunization record
AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine

Rare cases of serious blood clots and/or bleeding have been reported. Monitor for any of the following symptoms for 4 to 28 days after your vaccine:

  • 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.
Pfizer or Moderna vaccine
Rare cases of heart inflammation have been reported. Monitor for any of the following symptom for 7 days after your vaccine:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling of a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heart that does not go away with rest or is accompanied by other symptoms.

Learn more from the Vaccination Aftercare handout.

Please report any adverse events to your immunizer, healthcare provider, or doctor following your vaccination. Healthcare providers are trained to report these events to the correct channels to monitor vaccine safety. For more information, please see our Vaccine Safety page.

Click the images below to open and learn what to expect after you get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Life after vaccination

After you get a vaccine, it is important to continue to follow public health guidelines. This includes:

  • Cleaning your hands regularly
  • Staying home when sick
  • Wearing a mask in indoor public spaces is required for people age 12 and older regardless of vaccination status. Read about the PHO order on masks in public indoor settings.

Everyone who receives the vaccine will still need to follow public health guidance, orders from the Provincial Health Officer, and any regional restrictions.

Beginning September 13, you will be required to show proof of vaccination for some social and recreational events, services and businesses.  

SOURCE: Getting a Vaccine ( )
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