COVID-19 vaccines FAQ
Getting your vaccine
- Can anyone in BC get the COVID-19 vaccine for free?
Everyone living in BC can get vaccinated for frege, even if they don’t have a Personal Health Number or other documentation. Canadian citizenship or permanent residency is not required.People 12 years of age and older in BC can register to get the COVID-19 vaccine. To register, go to the How to get vaccinated webpage.
- What can I do if I am anxious or afraid of needles?
Vaccines can cause some pain, stress, and anxiety for people of all ages. Go to our Reducing pain, stress, and anxiety with vaccinations page for tips on how to have a more positive vaccination experience.You can also contact your local health unit and ask to speak with a public health nurse about supports available in your area.
- I am immunocompromised. How do I get my third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?
In BC, a three-dose primary series of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines is recommended for people with a moderately to severely compromised immune system. People who are immunocompromised will generally have lower antibody responses (less protection) from two COVID-19 vaccine doses. Studies show that giving a third dose to complete the primary vaccine series can help these people make antibodies to protect them from COVID-19. To learn more, go to the How to get vaccinated for COVID-19 webpage.
- How do I get my booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?
In BC, a booster dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine is recommended at least six months after the primary series. The timing of your booster dose is based on your risk level for getting COVID-19, your age, and the amount of time since your second dose. Everyone 18 years and older will be invited to get a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine starting with people most at risk. To learn more, go to the Get your booster dose webpage.
- Can I cancel or reschedule my vaccine appointment?
- Where do I find more information about proof of vaccination and the BC Vaccine Card?
The BC Vaccine Card is required to access some events, services, and businesses in BC. To learn more, go to the Proof of vaccination and the BC Vaccine Card webpage.
- I was immunized outside of BC or Canada. What should I do?
If you received one or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine outside BC:
Even if you have been vaccinated against COVID-19 outside Canada, you may still need to receive vaccinations here. BC is following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) approved COVID-19 vaccines list to decide whether or not it is recommended that you receive additional COVID-19 vaccination. Find more information on vaccine registration and eligibility by clicking here.
- My COVID-19 vaccination record is not correct in the BC Health Gateway system. What should I do?
You can enter corrections for your COVID-19 immunization record on the Submit or update a COVID-19 immunization record webpage..
COVID-19 vaccine schedules, timing, & doses
- Is the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory?
The COVID-19 vaccines are not mandatory for the general public in BC, but are mandatory for some groups (e.g., healthcare workers), or may be required by some employers.At this time, proof of vaccination is required for all British Columbians to access some events, services, and businesses. For more information on proof of vaccination, please click here.
- Why is the COVID-19 mRNA Moderna (Spikevax™) booster given as a full dose for some people and a half dose for others?
A full dose of Moderna (Spikevax) will be used for residents of long-term care (LTC), assisted living, and independent living facilities; people awaiting placement in LTC; and people 70 years of age and older, as they are at higher risk of COVID-19 disease. A half dose will be used for all other eligible people recommended to receive a booster dose.
- Why is a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine called a ‘primary (initial) series’ for some and a ‘booster dose’ for others? What is the difference between a primary series and a booster dose?
In BC, a three-dose primary series of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines is recommended for people with a moderately to severely compromised immune system, as they will generally have lower antibody responses (protection) from two COVID-19 vaccine doses. Studies show that giving a third dose to complete the primary vaccine series can help these people create more antibodies to better protect them from COVID-19.In BC, a booster dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine is recommended at least six months after the primary series. The timing of your booster dose is based on your risk level of getting COVID-19, your age, and the amount of time since your second dose. Everyone 18 years or older will be invited to get a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. To learn more, go to the Get your booster dose webpage.
- A primary series is an initial series of vaccinations designed to give you protection against a disease. Depending on the vaccine, or a person’s age or health, the number of doses to complete a primary series may be different.
- A booster dose is given after the primary series to help you maintain and lengthen your protection against disease (to boost your protection). Booster doses are routinely given for many vaccines, such as tetanus and diphtheria.
- Is it ok to get other vaccinations around the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine?
COVID-19 vaccines can be given at the same time or any time before or after any other live or inactivated vaccine.
- Does the COVID-19 vaccine still work if there is a shorter or longer time between doses? How do we know that different intervals are okay?
The BC government recommends you get your second dose as early as four weeks after your first dose, depending on what is happening in your community.If you live or work in a community experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak, get your second dose as soon as you can (as soon as four weeks). 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.Generally, vaccine manufacturing companies and national vaccine advisory bodies specify the shortest acceptable timeframe (minimum interval) between vaccine doses but do not specify maximum intervals. For many vaccines, a longer interval to the booster dose results in higher antibody levels. High antibody levels are associated with longer protection time.The goal is to complete the vaccine schedule and get the total recommended number of doses.
- Why is it important to get all recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine?
Research from the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) shows that two doses of COVID-19 vaccines (three for people with a moderately to severely compromised immune system) provide strong protection against COVID-19 for at least four months. A booster dose given six to eight months after the second dose will provide longer-lasting protection.
- Is it safe for me to get a COVID-19 vaccine if I am immunocompromised from treatment or illness? What if I have an autoimmune disease?
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 the ongoing risk of COVID-19, most individuals can be offered vaccination:
- Weakened immune systems. 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.
- Autoimmune diseases. If you have questions and have an autoimmune disease, speak to your healthcare provider or medical specialist.
- Was the development of the COVID-19 vaccines rushed? Do we really know the vaccines are safe?
mRNA vaccines have been in development for many years. All COVID-19 vaccines approved by Health Canada are safe. The medical and scientific community is confident in the vaccines’ safety because of the track record of Canada's (and BC's) vaccine approval and safety monitoring system. Over 19 million Canadians have been fully and safely vaccinated, most with an mRNA vaccine. Learn more about how BC will monitor vaccine uptake, safety, and effectiveness.
- How do we know that mixing COVID-19 vaccine brands is safe and effective?
Mixing and matching vaccines is not new. Similar vaccines from different manufacturers are often used interchangeably in other routine vaccination programs. In other words, there are standards already in place to determine when mixing is safe and effective.BC’s recommendations on mix and match are based on evidence from studies and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s expert opinion.Although mixing vaccines was not tested in initial clinical trials, real-world studies have tested the safety and immune responses of mixing vaccines. Over 2 million Canadians have received a combination of COVID-19 vaccines since early June. Since then, the rate of reported adverse events has continued to trend down. Multiple trials of vaccine mixing from Germany, the UK, and Spain show effectiveness and safety.It’s important that you complete your vaccine series. You are not fully vaccinated until you’ve had all recommended doses. This is because all doses are needed to get the most effective protection against serious cases of COVID-19. A second or third dose also offers longer-lasting protection.
- I am recovering from an illness and/or my partner is recovering from an illness (like shingles or chickenpox). Is it safe for me to get vaccinated?
In general, it’s safe for you to get the COVID-19 vaccine even if you are recovering from an illness, but stay home if you are sick:
Tell your vaccine provider if you:
- 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 when you have recovered. This will help to distinguish potential side effects of the vaccine from the worsening of your illness.
- Waiting until you are recovered from an illness that can spread from person to person ensures that you’re not putting others at risk of infection when you come for your vaccine.
- Have a history of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) or Adults (MIS-A).
- Have doctor-diagnosed myocarditis or pericarditis after your last vaccine dose (with no other cause identified).
- I had COVID-19 disease. Do I need to get vaccinated? What if I am a COVID-19 long hauler?
Yes, you should get vaccinated as soon as you have recovered from COVID-19 and completed your self-isolation period. Tell your vaccine provider if you received anti SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma for treatment or prevention of COVID-19.If you are a long hauler (if you had COVID-19 disease, are no longer contagious, but still have symptoms) it’s also recommended that you get vaccinated.Not everyone develops a strong immune response after having had COVID-19, and the vaccine is the best way to ensure immunity. Although your body naturally generates antibodies when you get COVID-19, we don’t know how long immunity lasts or how many antibodies your body produces. This is why some people have had COVID-19 more than once and why it’s recommended you still get vaccinated.
- Is it safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine if I use marijuana/cannabis? Does it matter if it is edibles, smoked, etc.?
Yes, people who use any type of marijuana or cannabis can safely receive the COVID-19 vaccine.However, when it’s time for your appointment, we recommend that you not be high. This is not because of a vaccine safety concern (that marijuana interferes with the vaccine) but because the healthcare provider needs your informed consent before giving vaccines. Marijuana may impair (lessen) your ability to fully understand the health information and to ask questions.There is emerging evidence suggesting that smoking can have negative consequences on a person's respiratory system and immune competence, so it’s even more important to get a COVID-19 vaccine to protect yourself from the virus if you smoke.ImmunizeBC does not have specific recommendations around cannabis use after any vaccine, including the COVID-19 vaccines. This is because there are no studies around cannabis use and the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines.
- Is it safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine if I use substances or struggle with addiction?
Yes, people who use substances or struggle with addiction can safely receive the COVID-19 vaccine.However, when it’s time for your appointment, we recommend that you not be high. This is not because of a vaccine safety concern but because the healthcare provider needs your informed consent before giving vaccines. Drugs may impair (lessen) your ability to fully understand the health information and ask questions.Folks who struggle with substance use disorders may have a compromised (weaker) immune system and should talk to their healthcare provider.ImmunizeBC does not have specific recommendations around substance use after getting any vaccine, including the COVID-19 vaccines. There are no studies around substance use and the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines.
- Is it safe to drink alcohol before or after getting the vaccine?
Yes, people who use use alcohol can safely receive the COVID-19 vaccine.However, when it’s time for your appointment, we recommend that you don’t drink alcohol or come intoxicated (drunk) to your vaccination appointment. This is not because of a vaccine safety concern (that alcohol interferes with the vaccine) but because the healthcare provider needs your informed consent before giving vaccines. Alcohol may impair (lessen) your ability to fully understand the health information and ask questions.Folks who struggle with an alcohol use disorder may have a compromised (weaker) immune system and should talk to their healthcare provider. Expert opinion is that we do not expect a moderate amount of alcohol use will have a negative effect on the immune response to the vaccine.ImmunizeBC does not have specific recommendations around alcohol use after getting any vaccine, including the COVID-19 vaccines. There are no studies around alcohol use and the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines.
- Is it safe to get a tattoo, or microblading, or botox before or after COVID-19 vaccines?
Yes, it is safe to get a tattoo, or microblading, or botox between doses of the vaccine. A recent tattoo, microblading or botox treatment is not a contraindication or precaution to safely receiving a vaccine, nor is there a required wait period between having these procedures and a vaccine.
Ingredients & allergies
- What are the ingredients of the COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for use in Canada?
There are currently five vaccines approved in Canada. You can find the ingredients and detailed information on each of the vaccines here:
As more vaccines are approved, their ingredient lists will be available on the Health Canada Approved COVID-19 vaccines page.
- Pfizer-BioNTech (ComirnatyTM) vaccine
- Moderna (SpikevaxTM) vaccine
- AstraZeneca (VaxzevriaTM)/Verity Pharmaceuticals (CovishieldTM ) vaccine
- Johnson & Johnson (JanssenTM) vaccine
- Do COVID-19 vaccines contain fetal cells? Were abortions performed to make vaccines?
Vaccines do not contain fetal cells, and no abortions are performed to make vaccines. This includes COVID-19 vaccines.Some vaccines are made by growing the vaccine viruses in human fetal cell lines. However, the vaccines themselves do not contain fetal cells or tissue. The purification process removes nearly all the cell components so that only trace amounts of DNA and protein may be present in the vaccine.Fetal cell lines are used to test and develop many common over-the-counter and prescribed medications, including antacids and cold medications.Are COVID-19 vaccines are made using fetal cell lines?
What fetal cell lines are used?
- Fetal cell lines were used to make the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine and the AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria) vaccine. However, the vaccines themselves do not contain fetal cells or tissue. The purification process removes nearly all the cell components so that only trace amounts of DNA and protein may be present in the vaccine.
- Fetal cell lines were not used to make the Moderna (Spikevax) and Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. However, the cell lines were used in the very early stages of research and development of these vaccines to test 'proof of concept’ (to test that the vaccines could work).
Why are fetal cell lines used?Fetal cell lines are used with some vaccines because viruses need to be grown in cells and human cells are often better than animal cells at supporting the growth of human viruses.Vaccine manufacturers may use these fetal cell lines during the following two phases:
- The AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria) vaccine uses the HEK 293 fetal cell line, and the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine uses the PER.C6 fetal cell line. However, the vaccines themselves do not contain fetal cells or tissue. The purification process removes nearly all the cell components so that only trace amounts of DNA and protein may be present in the vaccine.
- The Moderna (Spikevax) and Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) COVID-19 vaccines used the fetal cell line HEK 293 in the very early stages of research and development. It was not used to make these vaccines.
- The HEK 293 and PER.C6 fetal cell lines descend from cells taken from fetuses aborted in the 1970s and 1980s. The fetuses were not aborted to make vaccines.
Fetal cell lines are used in scientific and medical research and in the research and development of most medical products available today.What are fetal cell lines?Fetal cell lines are cells that are grown in a laboratory. They descend from cells taken from fetuses aborted in the 1970s and 1980s that have since multiplied into many new cells over the past four or five decades, creating the fetal cell lines. The fetuses were not aborted to make vaccines. Current fetal cell lines are thousands of generations removed from the original fetal tissue. They do not contain any tissue from a fetus.What does the Catholic church say about the use of fetal cell lines in vaccines?The Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life declared in 2005 and reaffirmed in 2017 that in the absence of alternatives, Catholics could, in good conscience, receive vaccines made using historical human fetal cell lines. In December 2020, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith provided a note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines.Where can I find more information?
- Research and development
- Production and manufacturing
- Infectious disease expert James Lawler, MD, MPH answers the question: “Do the COVID-19 vaccines contain aborted fetal cells?”
- Children's Hospital of Philadelphia website.
- History of Vaccines website.
- Are blood products in any of the vaccines?
Human blood products are not typically found in vaccines. The exceptions to this are two rabies vaccines (Imovax® Rabies and RabAvert®) that contain albumin derived from human blood. There are no blood products in the five COVID-19 vaccines that are currently approved in Canada. This could change as more vaccines with different ingredients are announced, so we recommend looking at the vaccine ingredient list on the Health Canada Approved COVID-19 Vaccines webpage.Regarding other vaccines: animal and human cell cultures may be used in the process of making certain vaccines, but the vaccines do not contain animal or human cells or tissue.
- Are there any animal products (including pork) in the COVID-19 vaccines?
Animal and human cell cultures may be used in the process of making certain vaccines, but the vaccines do not contain animal or human cells or tissue. The purification process removes nearly all of the cell components so that only trace amounts of DNA and protein may be present in the vaccine. So, there are no animal products in the five vaccines that are currently approved in Canada. While the AstraZeneca (VaxzevriaTM) vaccine used chimpanzees during the development stage, animal cells are not in the final vaccine product.
- I have an allergy to one of the ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccine. What should I do?
Let your immunization provider know that you are concerned about a possible allergy to an ingredient in the COVID-19 vaccine. You and your immunization provider can determine which vaccine is right for you. There is a safe COVID-19 vaccine option for most people.
Depending on your allergy history, your immunization providers may require you to wait for a longer period of time (30 minutes or more) after getting the vaccine.
- Tell your healthcare provider if you have had anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) with an unknown cause
Tell your healthcare provider if you have had anaphylaxis to:
- Polyethylene glycol (PEG), which is in both the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines
- Polysorbate 80, which is in the AstraZeneca, COVISHIELD, and Janssen vaccines
- I had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) after my mRNA vaccine. Can I get another dose?
Severe allergic reactions after mRNA vaccines are very rare. According to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, recent studies have shown that most of the people who had these reactions after a previous dose of mRNA vaccine can be safely re-vaccinated with the same vaccine or another mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. Re-vaccination was safe and almost no reactions or mild reactions happened after re-vaccination.Although the risk of a severe immediate allergic reaction after re-vaccination appears to be low, it’s important to do the following:
Please talk to your healthcare provider and discuss whether for you the benefits of the vaccine are greater than the possible risk of getting the vaccine. Your healthcare provider can help with a referral to an allergist. Or you can call your local health unit and ask to speak to a public health nurse. This link will help you find your local health unit number.
- Consult with an allergist or other appropriate physician before re-vaccination.
- If re-vaccinated, the vaccine should be given in a setting with expertise and equipment to manage anaphylaxis (all public health clinics are equipped).
- People should be observed for at least 30 minutes after re-vaccination.
- What are the common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine? Are the vaccine side effects the same as COVID-19 symptoms? How do I report a serious reaction?
It is normal and expected to have common reactions after you receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Common side effects are normal signs that the vaccine is working and your body is building protection. These do not need to be reported. Please read about the common expected reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine by clicking on the BCCDC Vaccine Aftercare Sheet.Vaccine side effects vs. COVID-19 symptoms
It's important to always report unexpected or serious reactions to a healthcare provider who gave you the vaccine so that they can be investigated further. If you don't know who gave your vaccine, call your local health unit to report. You can find their number here.If you’re concerned about your health, please speak with your healthcare provider. You can also contact HealthLink BC at 8-1-1.
- The vaccine is not a live virus vaccine and cannot cause or spread COVID-19 disease.
- Some of the side effects of the vaccine are similar to symptoms of COVID-19 infection. However, side effects from the vaccine should only last a day or two and go away on their own.
- Symptoms such as cough or other respiratory symptoms are not side effects of the vaccine and are more likely to be due to a respiratory infection like COVID-19.
- Use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool if you experience any symptoms compatible with COVID-19 infection, including respiratory symptoms (runny nose, sore throat, shortness of breath) or any symptoms listed above, with the exception of local injection site reactions. This will let you know if you need to get tested for COVID-19.
- Should I be worried if I don’t get any side effects? Does it mean the vaccine didn’t work?
It is true that side effects are normal signs that the vaccine is working and your body is building protection. However, this doesn’t mean you should be worried if you don’t have side effects. For example, both the mRNA vaccines provided protective immunity to over 90% of recipients in the clinical trials, but more than 50% of recipients reported no side effects.If you experience short-term side effects after your vaccine, including fever, muscle aches, and joint aches, they are temporary and you will feel better in a few days. Call 8-1-1 if these side effects continue more than a few days.
- Can I take ibuprofen (e.g., Advil®) or acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol®) for side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine? Should I take it before my appointment?
For most vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, it’s not recommended for adults to take pain or fever-reducing medications beforehand. Medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin®) should not be given before or during the vaccine appointment. Adults can take these medications for fever or soreness after receiving the vaccine, if needed. Please read the HealthLinkBC file and the BCCDC Vaccine Aftercare sheet. Check with your healthcare provider if you need advice about medication.If you took ibuprofen or acetaminophen before your COVID-19 vaccine appointment, you can continue with your appointment as planned.
- Are there long-term side effects caused by mRNA COVID-19 vaccines?
The medical and scientific community is confident in the long-term safety of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.
The history of vaccines shows that delayed effects after vaccination can happen. But when they do, these effects tend to happen within six weeks of receiving a vaccine. This is why regulators in Canada and many other countries require at least eight weeks of safety data before approving a vaccine. The vaccines have now been in use for months, with over 2.7 billion doses given worldwide.
The mRNA vaccines have been in development for many years and have been studied before for flu, Zika, rabies, and cytomegalovirus (CMV). In addition, cancer research has used mRNA to trigger the immune system to target specific cancer cells. Decades of studying mRNA vaccines have shown no long-term side effects.Canada’s vaccine safety system has proven time and again that the data necessary to get through the approval process is sufficient to prove safety, even for the long term. The end data and safety tests for the mRNA vaccines met the same standards as other vaccines that have been approved in Canada.
Reproductive health & breastfeeding
- Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine while I am menstruating (on my period)? Does the COVID-19 vaccine affect menstruation?
You can get the COVID-19 vaccine while you are on your period.Other vaccines have not impacted the menstrual cycle. The Canadian Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists discusses how the menstrual cycle is a complicated process affected by many factors, including sleep, stress, infection, diet, and exercise.While there are many theories on how changes in menstrual cycles may occur (e.g., inflammation) none have been proven. In the UK, over 41 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been given, with only 21,680 (0.0005%) of women per dose reporting changes in their menstrual cycles.In fact, getting COVID-19 itself can affect the menstrual cycle, with more than 35% of women and persons who get COVID-19 noting changes in their menstrual cycle after infection. What we do know is that having a severe illness such as COVID-19 does affect the menstrual cycle and can affect the menstrual cycle for much longer.While studies to determine if the effect of the COVID-19 vaccine on menstrual cycles are ongoing, the good news is that any changes you experience in your menstrual cycle after getting the vaccine are temporary, so it’s not a reason not to get a shot. If you have any concerns about your menstrual cycle, please speak with your healthcare provider.
- Does the COVID-19 vaccine affect fertility?
The Canadian Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists states that the COVID-19 vaccines do not cause infertility, and there is no scientific reason to believe that they will cause infertility. Recent studies have shown that they do not affect fertility. In fact, getting the COVID-19 vaccine before getting pregnant may protect you and your future baby from the harms of COVID-19 in pregnancy.
- Do people who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding have safety concerns with the vaccine?
Getting a COVID-19 vaccine if you are pregnant, planning to get pregnant, or breastfeeding is the safest choice to protect you from COVID-19.Pregnant people are at increased risk of serious illness and complications from COVID-19 infection. Vaccines can drastically reduce this risk and can be given safely at any time while trying to conceive, during pregnancy, or while breastfeeding.The Canadian Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends that all people who are pregnant or those trying to become pregnant should receive the COVID-19 vaccination. There is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines will affect fertility or the pregnancy itself.Evidence from around the world continues to grow and has not found any safety concerns for pregnant or breastfeeding people who were vaccinated or for their babies. Studies have shown that pregnant people who get a COVID-19 vaccine receive the same levels of protection that non-pregnant people do and that this protection can be passed on to the baby.For more information, go to the BC Centre for Disease Control’s COVID-19: planning for your vaccine handout.
- If I am vaccinated and breastfeeding, do I pass on COVID-19 immunity to my baby?
Several recent small studies have shown that antibodies can be passed to infants through breastfeeding. Getting vaccinated while breastfeeding not only protects the parent but could also protect the baby too. However, whether antibodies passed by a vaccinated or an infected parent give a child sufficient protection, and whether that protection lasts, are questions that still need to be answered.
After the vaccine
- How effective are the COVID-19 vaccines?
Effectiveness tells the story of how vaccines are performing in the real world outside of research trials. All vaccines approved in Canada and available in BC are safe and effective and will help protect you against 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 COVID-19 illness and death.As we monitor the impact of the vaccines in our communities and province, we can start to see the impact a couple of weeks after vaccination. The first people to be vaccinated in BC were long-term care and assisted living residents and healthcare workers. Within two to three weeks of receiving their first dose of vaccine, there was a pronounced drop in the number of cases among vaccinated people, a reduction in the number of outbreaks in these facilities, and a reduction in hospitalizations and deaths among vaccinated long-term care residents. Read more about vaccine effectiveness on the BCCDC website.
- How long does the immunity to COVID-19 last after getting the vaccine?
COVID-19 is a relatively new disease and BC continues to monitor vaccine effectiveness. We are still learning how our immune system responds to infection and immunization and how long immunity lasts after getting vaccinated.Two doses prevent about 95% of COVID-19 hospitalizations. Preventing serious outcomes is the main goal of the vaccine program. COVID-19 vaccines were found to provide strong protection of more than 80 to 90% for at least four months after the second dose.At this time in BC, a booster dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine is recommended at least six months after the primary series. Booster doses maintain and extend the COVID-19 vaccine’s strong protection against the virus. The timing of your booster dose is based on your risk level for getting COVID-19, your age, and the amount of time since your second dose. Everyone 18 years or older will be invited to get a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Read more about BC vaccine effectiveness on the BCCDC website.
- Can the COVID-19 vaccines give you COVID-19? Can I spread COVID-19 to other people from the COVID-19 vaccine?
No, the COVID-19 vaccines do not give you COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccine does not cause you to spread the COVID-19 virus to others.When most people are vaccinated, we limit or stop the spread of COVID-19 because of community immunity. The more people in a community who are vaccinated, the harder it is for a disease to spread. If a person infected with a disease comes in contact only with people who are immune (have been vaccinated), the disease will have little opportunity to spread.
- Can I still get COVID-19 disease if I am fully vaccinated? Why does this happen?
Clinical trials and real-world studies have shown that the COVID-19 vaccines are very effective at preventing severe COVID-19 disease, hospitalizations and death. However, some people who are immunized against a vaccine-preventable disease can still get the disease. Below are two examples:
It's important to remember that when most people are fully vaccinated, the overall number of cases is way lower than without vaccination, and the severity of illness among vaccinated people (including hospitalization and death) is lower.
- It takes about two weeks for your body to gain protection from the COVID-19 vaccine. This means that if you come in contact and get infected with COVID-19 disease before getting the vaccine, or within the two-week period following the vaccine (when your body hasn't developed full immunity), you may still get sick. If you experience symptoms of COVID-19 after you’ve been vaccinated, click here to use the BC Self-Assessment tool to see if you need a test.
- Breakthrough disease happens when a person who has been fully vaccinated becomes infected with the same disease. No vaccine is 100% effective and the greater the proportion of people vaccinated in a population, the greater the proportion of cases will occur among vaccinated people. Watch this video from the World Health Organization about why some people get breakthrough disease.
- If a vaccine has 95% efficacy, what happens to the people who are the other 5%? Do they have no immunity at all?
Our immune systems don’t work like a light switch that goes simply on or off. Think of it more like a dimmer switch. With dimmer switches, the switch can go all the way up, but it can also go somewhere in between fully bright and completely off. If you stop the switch in the middle, it’s not off - you can still see, but it’s dim.The immune system is in many ways similar to the dimmer switch. When you are vaccinated, the switch to make antibodies in your body is slowly turned up, and more and more antibodies get made. Antibodies are what give you immunity or protection.A vaccine with 95% efficacy means that in clinical trials, 95% of people had full protection after getting the vaccine. This doesn’t mean that the other 5% did not get any protection. It just means that their immune system “dimmer switch” got partially there, and that without the vaccine there would have been zero protection. Their body made antibodies, but not enough to be considered fully protected.
- Once I'm vaccinated, do I still have to worry about public health measures?
Everyone who receives the vaccine still needs to follow public health guidance and orders from the Provincial Health Officer. You can go here to see the current public health orders. As things change, public health measures will be updated and adjusted.