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What is a vaccine?

A vaccine is a product that helps protect you from bacteria and viruses that make you sick like measles, whooping cough, the flu and COVID-19.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

It is completely normal to feel worried when something is new. Health Canada has a thorough approval process to make sure the vaccines and medicines we take are safe.

Vaccines do more than protect the person getting vaccinated, they also protect everyone around them. The more people in a community who are vaccinated and protected from COVID-19, the harder it is for the virus to spread. This is called herd immunity.

Four vaccines – the Pfizer [fai-zer], Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines – have been approved for use by Health Canada.

Health Canada did a careful scientific review of the available medical evidence to check the safety of the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. There were no major safety concerns found in the data Health Canada reviewed.

The COVID-19 vaccines approved by Health Canada are safe, effective and will save lives.

It’s only been a year since COVID-19 came up. How did a vaccine come out so fast?

Most of the scientific community around the world came together to try and find a cure for a single disease at the same time. There are three main reasons why the vaccines were able to be developed so fast: 

  1. Scientists from around the world worked together to find a solution
  2. Billions of dollars in funding have been put towards finding a solution to COVID-19
  3. Government regulations allowed vaccine development to happen more efficiently while maintaining strict clinical and safety standards


Do I have to pay for the COVID-19 vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccine will be free for everyone in British Columbia who is eligible to receive it. 

Are there any side effects to the COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccines are very safe. Any medicine or vaccine has a small chance of side effects. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get COVID-19. The mRNA vaccines are not live virus vaccines and cannot give you COVID-19. The viral vector-based vaccines do not use the virus that causes COVID-19.

After being vaccinated against COVID-19, some people have reported mild, short-term side effects similar to those experienced after a flu shot, which go away after 1-2 days. These side effects include:

  • Pain where the vaccine is given (the upper arm)
  • Soreness, redness or swelling where the vaccine is given
  • Mild to moderate tiredness and chills
  • Headache or joint pain

Clinical trials have not shown serious side effects with the COVID-19 vaccine. As with any vaccine, there is a risk of an allergic reaction. One in a million people have a severe allergic reaction after receiving a vaccine. It is important to stay in the clinic for 15 minutes after you receive the vaccine so that you have access to emergency treatment if this occurs. 


What are the long-term effects of the vaccine?

We are still learning how our immune systems respond to COVID-19. We are also learning how long immunity lasts after getting COVID-19 and after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Who should not get the vaccine?

Health Canada recommends that people allergic to any ingredient in a COVID-19 vaccine should avoid getting that vaccine for now. Health Canada also recommends that people who have had an allergic reaction to another vaccine, drug or food should speak with a healthcare professional before getting vaccinated.

When can I get the vaccine?

As part of B.C.’s COVID-19 immunization strategy, the first round of COVID-19 vaccinations began the week of December 14, 2020. 

B.C.’s vaccination strategy has been developed based on recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) and is focused on protecting those most likely to get really sick first.

After people in priority groups have been vaccinated, everyone else in B.C. can get vaccinated as more vaccines become available. For the latest news on when you can get vaccinated, check BC’s Response to COVID-19 Page.

Everyone in B.C. will have the opportunity to get the vaccine by the end of 2021. 

How can I protect myself in the meantime?

Even if vaccines are available, we still need to continue to protect each other. Protect yourself and others by:

Even after you get vaccinated, it’s important to continue to follow the public health guidelines as we learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work in the real world.


What is herd immunity?

Herd immunity is when a large part of a community (the herd) becomes immune to a disease, which makes the spread of disease from person to person less likely. As a result, the whole community becomes protected — not just those who are immune.

Herd immunity against COVID-19 could be reached once 60 to 70% of the population is vaccinated. 

What if I don’t want to get the vaccine?

Your decision to get the vaccine is your decision and should be respected. It is your body and your choice. You aren’t obligated to tell your family and friends about your decision. However, it may be difficult to do things you were able to do before without a vaccine like going on flights and attending large events.



This article was last edited on March 16, 2021.


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