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What is the COVID-19 vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccine protects against infection from the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19. The vaccine causes your body to produce antibodies that will protect you from getting sick if exposed to the virus. Currently there are two mRNA COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada:

  • As of December 9, 2020 the Pfizer vaccine 
  • As of December 23, 2020  the Moderna vaccine 

The mRNA COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved by Health Canada are effective and will save lives. Vaccines do more than protect the people getting vaccinated, they also protect everyone around them too. The more people in a community who are vaccinated and protected from COVID-19, the harder it is for the virus to spread.

Who should get the vaccine?

The vaccine is being provided to those who are at increased risk of exposure to the virus and those most at risk of serious complications. It will only be available for certain groups of people at first due to limited supply of the vaccine. As the vaccine supply increases other groups of people will be able to get the vaccine.

What are the benefits of the vaccine?

The vaccine is the best way to protect you against COVID-19 which is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. In clinical trials, those who received the vaccine were 95% less likely to become sick with COVID-19. When you get immunized, you help protect others as well including those who are unable to get the vaccine.

What are the side effects?

Vaccines are very safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get COVID-19. The vaccine is not a live virus vaccine and cannot give you COVID-19. Common reactions to the vaccine may include soreness, redness and swelling where the vaccine was given. Other reactions include tiredness, headache, fever, chills,  muscle or joint soreness, nausea and vomiting. These reactions are mild and generally last 1 to 2 days.

If you have concerns about any symptoms you develop after receiving the vaccine speak with your healthcare provider or call 8-1-1 for advice. Serious side effects of the vaccine were not seen in the clinical trials. The people who received the vaccine in the trials continue to be followed for any long term side effects from the vaccine. A number of processes are also in place in Canada to monitor the safety of the vaccine as people get immunized.

It is important to stay in the clinic for 15 minutes after getting any vaccine because about 1 in a million people can get a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This may include hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the throat, tongue or lips. Should this reaction occur, your health care provider is prepared to treat it. Emergency treatment includes administration of epinephrine (adrenaline) and transfer by ambulance to the nearest emergency department. If symptoms develop after you leave the clinic, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number. Always report serious or unexpected reactions to your health care provider.

Where can I learn more?

What is COVID-19?

  • COVID-19 is an infection of the airways and lungs caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
  • Symptoms of COVID-19 can include cough, shortness of breath, fever, chills, tiredness and loss of smell or taste. While some people with COVID-19 may have no symptoms or only mild symptoms, others can require hospitalization and may die.
  • Serious illness is more common in those who are older and those with certain chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or lung disease. For some people symptoms of COVID-19 can last for weeks or longer.
  • The long term effects of COVID-19 on a person’s health are unknown. 
Date last updated: 
Tuesday, Jan 12, 2021
Date last reviewed: 
Monday, Dec 21, 2020