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Getting a Vaccine

Everyone age 5 and older living in British Columbia is eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. Find out how to register and what to expect when you get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Last updated: July 14, 2022


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On this page

  1. Getting your first and second doses
  2. Booster dose
  3. Third dose
  4. What to expect at the vaccination clinic
  5. After your vaccination
  6. Register vaccines received outside of B.C.
Everyone age 5 and older living in British Columbia is eligible to get vaccinated. Vaccination is free. Booster doses are recommended for everyone 12 years and older.

Getting your first and second doses

You need at least two doses to complete your primary series for most vaccines in B.C. Some people need a third dose in their primary series for better protection against severe illness.

To get vaccinated, register yourself or your child with the Get Vaccinated system. Once registered, you will receive an invitation to book an appointment when you are eligible for your first or second dose.


Register

  •  Online at gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated, available in 12 different languages
  • By telephone (toll-free) at 1-833-838-2323, available in 140 different languages.
  • In-person at all Service BC offices. You will need to have a personal health number. Find a Service BC offices.

If you don't have a Personal Health Number, you need to register by phone by calling 1-833-838-2323. A Personal Health Number will be created for you. 

 

Learn more about how to get vaccinated.

 

For second doses

Make sure you are registered with the Get Vaccinated system.

 

If you are already registered, you will get an invitation to book your second dose appointment about 8 weeks after your first dose. You will receive the invitation by text message, email or phone call, whichever you selected when you registered.

 

If you have not yet registered and got your first dose elsewhere, register now to book your second dose appointment. If you have questions or aren't sure if you are registered, phone the call centre at: 1-833-838-2323.

 

Learn more about the importance of a second dose.

 

After you register in the Get Vaccinated system and get your invitation, you can book an appointment through the online system. For second doses, you will receive an invitation to book approximately 8 weeks after your first dose. You can select a location, date and time.

 

Find COVID-19 vaccination clinics in your health authority:

 

The COVID-19 vaccines available in B.C. include:

  • Pfizer Comirnaty mRNA vaccine
  • Moderna Spikevax mRNA vaccine
  • Novavax protein subunit vaccine 
  • Janssen viral vector vaccine

The vaccine you get is based on a variety of factors including your age, allergies to vaccine ingredients, where you're getting your vaccine, and availability of the products.


Both mRNA vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, are available at vaccination clinics across the province, as well as participating pharmacies. 


Although the mRNA vaccines are recommended, you can request the Janssen or Novavax vaccine through the provincial system.


If you want to get a non-mRNA vaccine, you can be added to a waitlist. Please register with the Get Vaccinated system and then call 1-833-838-2323 and inform the agent that your preference is to receive Janssen or Novavax.


Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines


There are no safety concerns with mixing vaccine brands or types. 


To get Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for your second dose, you must be registered with the Get Vaccinated system and book an appointment.


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

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) provides guidance on the best timing between the first and second doses of vaccine. The second dose of vaccine should be provided 8 weeks after the first dose.

 

Even if you are unable to receive your second dose at the recommended time, it is still important to receive your second dose to protect yourself from COVID-19.

 

In B.C., the recommended interval of 8 weeks or longer between vaccine doses has been very helpful in supporting longer lasting vaccine effectiveness.

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Booster dose

Booster doses help maintain your level of protection against severe illness from a COVID-19 infection. Everyone 12 years and older can get a booster dose.

A booster dose is recommended at least six months after completing your primary vaccine series (your first two vaccines). If you got the Janssen vaccine, you can get a booster two months after your vaccine.


The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that an mRNA booster dose should be given at least 6 months after completing your initial vaccine series.


If it has been more than six months since you received your initial vaccine series and you have not had a COVID-19 infection in the past three months, it is likely that your protection against severe illness from a COVID-19 infection has decreased. You should get your booster dose as soon as possible.


Pregnant people can get the first booster dose 2 months (8 weeks) after their second dose. You can be at any stage of your pregnancy. If you haven't received an invite yet, call 1-833-838-2323 and self-identify as pregnant.


A second booster dose is recommended for people who are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 infection, including people who live in long-term care, those 70 years of age and older (55 years of age older for Indigenous peoples) and people who are immunocompromised or clinically extremely vulnerable.
 
Planning is ongoing for a fall booster dose for people 12 years and older. It is preferable to wait until the fall respiratory season when we return to more indoor activities before getting a second booster dose to help maintain your protection.
 
Some people have unique needs and feel they should get a second booster dose now (e.g. you are caring for someone who is at higher risk of severe disease). If you are 18 years of age or older and it has been at least six months since your first booster, you can call to book an appointment at 1-833-838-2323.


Learn more about booster doses at gov.bc.ca/booster


You should get a booster dose even if you've already had COVID-19. The vaccine provides more reliable protection than COVID-19.

If you've recently had a positive COVID-19 test result, you can wait up to 3 months for your booster dose or get it any time after your symptoms have passed. It is not harmful to get vaccinated and it will give you a good boost to your protection. 

Make sure you are registered with the Get Vaccinated system.

 

Once you are eligible, you will receive an invitation to book an appointment for your booster dose. 

 

You must be invited to book a booster dose appointment. You can't drop-in at a clinic or call a pharmacy to get a booster.


People living in long-term care and assisted living will get their booster doses from a health care worker who visits them. 

You can call 1-833-838-2323 if you are eligible for booster doses and have not yet received an invitation to book one.

 

Learn more about booking your booster dose appointment.

You will be given an mRNA vaccine, either Moderna or Pfizer, as mRNA vaccines provide stronger protection. Novavax is available for those who are unable to receive an mRNA vaccine or those who prefer to get a non-mRNA vaccine. 


There is no need for your booster to be the same brand as your previous vaccines. Getting an mRNA vaccine booster is highly effective and safe, even if you received a non-mRNA vaccine for a previous dose.

 

The ingredients in the vaccines used for booster doses are the same as the ingredients in the vaccines for the first and second doses.


The vaccine you get depends on your age and whether you have a weakened immune system. 


The Pfizer booster has the same dosage (i.e. the amount of mRNA) as the first two doses. If available, this vaccine is offered to most people age 12 to 29. People age 18 to 29 who have a weakened immune system may be offered a Moderna vaccine. Adults ages 30 and older may be offered either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine.


The Moderna booster has half the amount of mRNA than the first two doses, and produces an effective immune response in most people. 


For some people getting their first booster, it is recommended to get the Moderna booster with the same amount of mRNA as the first two doses because they need a higher dose to develop a strong immune response. This includes:

  • People 70 years of age or older    
  • People living in a long-term care home, assisted living or independent living facility
 

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Third dose

People who are moderately to severely immunocompromised, including children ages 5 to 11, should receive a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

These individuals may not develop a strong enough immune response with only two doses of vaccine. They need three doses to achieve the level of protection that most people get with two doses.

A third dose in a primary series is different than a booster dose. Booster doses help maintain and lengthen your level of protection against severe illness as immunity decreases over time. A third dose is for people with compromised immune systems who don't develop a strong enough immune response with two doses and need a third dose to be better protected against COVID-19.

If you are someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) and received a three-dose primary COVID-19 vaccine series, you are eligible for a booster dose six months after your third dose of COVID-19 vaccine.


Call 1-833-838-2323 if you are eligible and have not yet received an invitation to book one.


Learn more about booster doses.


There is information available about planning your vaccine for people who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable.

 

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What to expect at the vaccination clinic

If you are sick or have symptoms of COVID-19, stay home and wait until you feel better to get your vaccine. 

If you have a temporary physical illness (like an injury) that prevents you from doing your regular activities, you can also wait until you feel better to get your vaccine.


  • You can eat and drink right up to your appointment time. Try not to arrive hungry or thirsty, which could make you feel lightheaded or dizzy.
  • Bring your 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 and shoulder. The vaccine is given by injection into the muscle on your shoulder.
  • You can bring one person with you to the vaccination centre for support.
You will have the option to receive a paper and digital copy of your record of vaccination. You can access your digital immunization card by registering with the Health Gateway. Your immunization record will also be stored in the online provincial database, accessible to you, public health, and your doctor.

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 are with an immunizer, they will ask you to give your consent to be vaccinated. 
  5. You will receive your vaccine. The immunizer will give you a piece of paper confirming which vaccine you received.
  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.


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When you get vaccinated, your information will be entered into the electronic Provincial Immunization Registry. 

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

  • Online: Register for Health Gateway. You need a mobile BC services card to register. 
  • Phone: Call 1-833-838-2323 to request a mailed copy of your immunization record.

  • In person at a Service BC office: You can get a printed copy of your immunization record at all Service BC offices.

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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 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 the vaccine is working 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. 

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
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.
AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD or Janssen 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.

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. 


If you have questions about side effects or a possible reaction to the vaccine, contact HealthLinkBC by calling 8-1-1.


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.

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Register vaccines received outside of B.C.

If you received a COVID-19 vaccine in another province or territory, you must submit proof of an official vaccination record.  You may you may need to receive vaccinations here.


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SOURCE: Getting a Vaccine ( )
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