Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine in Canada.
- How does COVID-19 affect individuals with brain injury?
Due to the ever-changing nature of the COVID-19 virus and the lack of peer-reviewed research on COVID-19 specific to those with brain injury, we cannot report how this virus affects individuals with existing acquired brain injuries. We follow the guidelines and recommendation provided by both the World Health Organization and the Public Health Agency of Canada. We encourage everyone who can to consider COVID-19 vaccination and continue to practice physical distancing, washing hands regularly, wearing masks, and following your local guidelines.
The COVID-19 vaccines
- How do the vaccines work?
The vaccines provide the information your cells need to recognize and learn how to fight COVID-19.
- What’s an mRNA vaccine?
An mRNA vaccine is a vaccine that includes compounds that help teach your cells how to recognize and fight COVID-19. Learn more about mRNA vaccines in this article.
- Are the current COVID-19 vaccines effective against the variants?
Research shows that the current vaccines are effective against variants of COVID-19. This is because they include a broad range of antibodies that can identify components in the variants. Learn more on the World Health Organization website
- How effective are the COVID-19 vaccines?
The first dose is 90% effective after 14 days. The second dose increases that effectiveness to 95%.
- What does “% effectiveness” mean?
The protection vaccines provide is measured in percentages. This means that a vaccine with 80% effectiveness provides 80% protection against its disease.
- How does Canada test the vaccines?
The COVID-19 vaccine was developed thanks to decades of research and development of vaccines. Health Canada has an independent drug authorization process that relies on medical and scientific evidence.
- What are the ingredients in COVID-19 vaccines?
Each COVID-19 vaccine has its own formula. You can find the ingredients for the three main COVID-19 vaccines available in Canada here.
- What if I am allergic to ingredients in one or more of the COVID-19 vaccines?
If you are allergic to one or more ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccines, you should speak with a doctor about your options.
COVID-19 vaccination process
- Who is eligible for a vaccine?
Canadians aged 12 and up are eligible for vaccines, though age ranges depend on the type of vaccine.
- Is the vaccine safe for children, pregnant women, and people with other health conditions?
Children under the age of 12 are not currently able to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Pregnant women and individuals with other health conditions should consult with a doctor before getting the vaccine.
- How does the vaccination process work?
A vaccine is administered in two doses over the course of several weeks. It is given through a needle in the arm, and is a relatively quick process. After the needle, there is a 15-20 minute waiting period where doctors can monitor for any side effects.
- When can I get the vaccine?
As of July 2021, the majority of Canadians 12 years of age and older are eligible for the first dose of vaccine. The second dose is made available based upon the date of your first dose.
- What does it cost to get vaccinated?
It is free for you to get a vaccine.
- What are the benefits of getting vaccinated?
Vaccines for COVID-19 are protecting Canadians from serious COVID-19 illnesses, and allowing families to reunite, businesses to open up, and other activities to resume.
- Can I get the vaccine if I’m sick with COVID-19?
You are not eligible to get the vaccine if you currently have COVID-19. The general recommendation is that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe for those who are not contagious.
- If I have already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need the COVID-19 vaccine?
A person who has had COVID-19 should still get the COVID-19 vaccine. This is because researchers do not know how much protection antibodies left by the disease provide. The vaccine provides extra protection.
- Can I choose which COVID-19 vaccine to get?
In most circumstances, you are not able to pick which vaccine you receive, as it depends on what doses are available at the clinics or pharmacy.
If you are allergic to one or more of the vaccines, you should speak with a doctor or your local health authority about finding an appropriate solution.
- How long does the COVID-19 vaccine last?
We’re not yet sure how long protection from the COVID-19 vaccine will last. But vaccine experts are working hard to find an answer. What they do know is that the vaccine is effective, and will offer much higher protection against the disease.
- Why do I need two doses of vaccine?
The mRNA vaccines Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, and the AstraZeneca vaccine are given in two doses in order to provide the highest level of protection.
- Can I get a different vaccine for my second dose?
Yes, you can get a different vaccine for your second dose. Both Pfizer and Moderna are the same type of vaccine, and work well together to provide highly effective protection.
Second doses are typically determined based on the available supply of vaccines.
- Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I’ve gotten a different kind of vaccine?
If you have had a vaccine for a different health condition within the 2 weeks before your appointment, you will not be able to get the vaccine. Check with a doctor if you aren’t sure of your eligibility.
- Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?
You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine itself. According to experts from Vancouver Coastal Health, if you were exposed to the virus before you got either dose of the vaccine, you may be at risk of getting COVID-19. It also takes 2 weeks for each dose of the vaccine to come into full effect, which means that within those 2 weeks, you may still be at risk of getting sick.
- Will COVID-19 vaccine interact with my medication or treatments?
The COVID-19 vaccine is safe for the majority of people taking medication or with medical conditions. However, health authorities are recommending that people who are pregnant; have an autoimmune condition; are taking medication that suppresses the immune system; or have a pre-existing health condition should consult with their doctor before getting the vaccine.
- What are the side effects of COVID-19 vaccines?
Common side effects of the different kinds of COVID-19 vaccines include:
- Pain at the injection site
- Muscle or joint pain
- Fever or chills
These side effects are commonly short-term. For more information about COVID-19 vaccine symptoms, Ottawa Public Health has a helpful chart.
- What do I do if I experience side effects?
If you have some common side effects, they commonly disappear after a few days, and require no medical treatment.
If you are experiencing any side effects or have any concerns, you should speak with a doctor.
For any emergency medical situations, you should call 911 or go to the emergency room.
- Do I need to continue wearing a mask and physical distancing after my vaccine?
While the vaccine is highly effective, as the pandemic is still going on, it is recommended in many provinces and territories to continue physical distancing and wearing a mask.
For more specific information, check with your local or provincial/territorial health authority.
- Can I travel when I have the vaccine?
Travel within Canada is allowed, but each province and territory has requirements for travelers. For example, this could include periods of self-isolation depending on your vaccine status.
International travel is also subject to restrictions.
- Will I receive a vaccine/immunization record?
You will receive a record of your vaccination. Each province and territory has its own appointment booking system, and how you receive your record of vaccination will change.
- Are there alternative formats for immunization records?
Immunization records are commonly provided digitally, with the ability for them to be printed.
- I got my first dose in a different province/territory. How do I get my second dose?
Many provinces/territories are using out-of-province forms or web-based portals to help track immunization. Each province and territory has its own vaccine appointment booking system. As such, you will have to visit the booking site to find the specific process.
- How do I decide if getting the vaccine is the right choice?
The decision to get a vaccine is an important one. The vaccine can help protect individuals and their families from the effects of COVID-19, prevent serious long-term effects from the illness, and enable Canada’s reopening. It also is making it possible for families and friends to reconnect in person.
While the decision may be easy for some, it is important to take your time and talk to health professionals if you have any questions.
- Do I need a third dose of the vaccine?
Some provinces/territories are beginning to offer a third dose of eligible COVID-19 vaccines to select groups of people who are most at risk of serious illness. This is to offer as much protection as possible for those who may have immune system complications.
If you are not sure whether a third dose is appropriate for you, speak with your doctor.
- What is a vaccine passport, and why are some provinces/territories considering them?
A vaccine passport is another term for a certificate or document that proves someone’s vaccination status. In the case of COVID-19, it would show the number of COVID-19 doses a person has. Canada is working on a national COVID-19 vaccine passport that Canadians can use for international travel – but it is up to each province and territory to decide if they are going to use vaccine passports for use within the province/territory.
COVID-19 vaccine appointments
- Are the vaccine sites accessible?
Each vaccine clinic is different, and as such will meet different accessibility needs. If possible, ask about accessibility and identify your own needs when you make the appointment.
For more information about accessibility, consult with your health authority.
- How do I help someone book their vaccine or provide consent if I am their caregiver?
In order to provide consent on behalf of someone else, you need to be legally recognized as their proxy. Some health authorities, such as Ottawa Public Health, have COVID-19 consent forms or allow caregivers to accompany the patient to their appointments. You will need to confirm with your own health authority on the process.
- Am I allowed to go with someone to their appointment if they need support?
While this may be entirely dependent on individual clinics, in general people are allowed to bring someone to their appointment - or to ask for additional assistance. You should check with your clinic location to ensure this is allowed.
- I’m not able to leave my home - can I still get the vaccine?
This depends on the capabilities of your local health authority immunization program. To find out if you are in an area that offers home vaccinations, visit the website or call your city or province’s health authority.
- Can I bring a caregiver with me when I get vaccinated?
The policy for bringing someone with you to an appointment depends on each health authority. The majority of immunization plans include making sure that those who need a caregiver or extra assistance are able to have it at their appointments. To confirm that you are able to bring someone to your appointment at a clinic or pharmacy, check with your health authority.
- What should I bring to my appointment?
You should bring confirmation of your appointment (this could be a code or a document), your health card or photo identification, and a mask.
It is recommended to wear short sleeves so it is easy for the vaccine to be administered. After your vaccine, there is a 15-minute waiting period so that you can be monitored. Some people like to bring a book or headphones to listen to music during this time.
- Do the needles hurt?
With most needles, the person receiving the shot will feel a small pinch. If you have any questions about needles, these should be referred to a doctor.
- What happens if I miss my vaccine appointment?
If you miss your vaccine appointment, you will need to reschedule it through your province or territory’s booking system.