Questions & Answers about COVID-19 Vaccination
Since the COVID-19 vaccine was announced, there has been a lot of information circulating about whether it is safe, effective and much more. Unfortunately, a lot of that information tends to be either false or wrongly reported by media outlets.
Here are some myths about the COVID-19 vaccination that can help you better understand not only the vaccine, but the virus in general.
Information last updated: December 13, 2021.
Efficiency & Protection
IT IS TRUE THAT THE COVID-19 VACCINE IS NOT EFFECTIVE?
NO. Vaccination is one of the most effective ways to protect ourselves, our families and our community against COVID-19.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR ME TO BE PROTECTED AFTER RECEIVING THE COVID-19 VACCINE?
It is important to note that full protection takes days and not hours to develop after having received the vaccine.
All you need to know on the Primary COVID-19 Vaccine Series
WHY IS THE PRIMARY VACCINE SERIES IMPORTANT?
The primary vaccine series is the number of doses initially received to allow the body to develop an immune response and provide initial protection. The number of doses included in this primary vaccine series may vary depending on your health status. Check with your provincial public health guidelines to find out how many doses are required.
All You Need to Know on the Booster Dose
WHY IS THE BOOSTER DOSE IMPORTANT?
The booster dose is different from the primary vaccine series. After the primary vaccine series, the antibody level may decrease over time. A booster dose can be given in addition to the primary series to bring the antibody level back up to a high enough level to compensate for the decrease that may occur over time. Check with your provincial public health guidelines for eligibility criteria and recommended interval between doses.
Are there side effects to the COVID-19 vaccine?
YES, like all vaccines, side effects may arise.
The vast majority of reactions are mild and very short term. COVID-19 vaccines are approved by Heatlh Canada and are safe. The most common side effects include:
- Pain, soreness or redness at injection site
- Fever or chills
- Body aches or joint pains
- Nausea or vomiting
These are signs that the vaccine is working to stimulate your immune system. These symptoms should not last more than a few days. If symptoms worsen over time, you should call your healthcare professional.
What to do right after receiving the vaccine:
- Wait for at least 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine to be sure that you are feeling well and do not experience any immediate reaction.
- Inform the healthcare provider if you feel unwell while waiting. While waiting, continue to follow health and safety norms by wearing a mask and keeping a distance of at least 2 meters from anybody not belonging to your household.
- Use alcohol-based sanitization to clean your hands before leaving the immunization center.
- Do not operate a vehicle or other form of transportation for at least 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine or if feeling unwell.
CAN THE COVID-19 VACCINE CAUSE MORE SERIOUS ALLERGIC REACTIONS THAN THE EXISTING VACCINES?
There is no link between antibiotic or food allergies and a potential reaction to the vaccine.
If you have allergies, especially severe ones, discuss the COVID-19 vaccine with your pharmacist, who can assess your risk and provide more information about if and how you can get vaccinated safely.
Vaccination for Special Populations
SHOULD I GET VACCINATED EVEN IF I AM IMMUNOCOMPROMISED, PREGNANT OR AM A CHILD?
- Immunocompromised people
Those who are immunocompromised due to an auto-immune disease should be informed that it is generally recommended to get vaccinated considering the actual health risks associated with COVID-19 and the expected benefits of the vaccine. There is no reason to suggest that the vaccines will cause any safety problems
Furthermore, those who take immunosuppression medication have a lower immune system, which makes them more at risk of COVID-19, further reinforcing the importance for this population to get vaccinated.
Although the current data is limited in this population, they are strongly encouraged to discuss the vaccine with their healthcare professional in order to make an informed decision and follow current recommendations on the subject.
The Pfizer vaccine is recommended by Health Canada for people aged 5 and up. Check provincial guidelines for vaccination in children.
- Pregnant Women
The risk of COVID-19 related complications is higher in pregnant women, especially those with existing health problems. Currently available data also shows that vaccination is safe for pregnant women. Therefore, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends a complete series of a mRNA vaccine in pregnant populations.
- Breastfeeding Women
Currently available data shows that vaccination is safe for breastfeeding women. Therefore, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends a complete series of a mRNA vaccine in breastfeeding populations.
DOES VACCINATION LOWER MY IMMUNE SYSTEM?
NO. In fact, vaccination does the exact opposite! Vaccination triggers your immune system to produce specific antibodies and white blood cells that act as a defense against the virus in question.
CAN I TRUST THE COVID-19 VACCINE EVEN THOUGH IT WAS ‘‘RUSHED’’?
YES. There are many reasons why the COVID-19 vaccines could be developed so quickly, but in no way was it rushed.
Here are just a few:
- The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna were created with a method that has been in development for years, so the companies could start the vaccine development process early in the pandemic.
- The COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca has been created with a method that has been used for more than 10 years in the vaccine industry: recombinant vectors.
- The different scientific communities isolated and shared genetic information about COVID-19 promptly, so scientists could start working on vaccines.
- The vaccine developers didn’t skip any testing steps, but conducted some of the steps on an overlapping schedule to gather data faster.
- Vaccine projects had plenty of resources, as governments invested in research and/or paid for vaccines in advance.
- Companies began making vaccines early in the process, even before FDA authorization, so some supplies were ready when authorization occurred.
CAN THE MRNA TECHNOLOGY USED TO MAKE THE COVID-19 VACCINE ENTER MY CELLS AND CHANGE MY DNA?
NO. The mRNA technology behind the COVID-19 vaccine has been in development for nearly two decades. This technology was created specifically to help respond quickly to a new pandemic illness (for example, COVID-19).
The vaccine does enter your cell, but it does not enter the nucleus where the DNA resides. The mRNA causes the cell to make a specific protein that is found on the COVID-19 virus, which helps stimulate the immune system to develop antibodies that will defend against the virus if your body comes into contact with it.
Once the mRNA is used to make the protein, it quickly breaks down, without affecting your DNA.
What are COVID-19 variants?Viruses that are a part of the coronavirus family constantly mutate, thus creating what we call variants.
HAVE SANITARY MEASURES CHANGED SINCE VARIANTS APPEARED?
NO. Vaccination is still highly recommended, as well as social distancing, wearing a mask, thorough handwashing and self-isolation if you are infected by the virus, to limit the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the protection of the general population.
IS IT STILL WORTH GETTING THE VACCINE EVEN THOUGH VARIANTS KEEP ON COMING?
Vaccination still is the most effective method to prevent a COVID-19 infection.
CAN THE COVID-19 VACCINE TREAT COVID-19?
NO. The vaccine does not treat COVID-19, it helps prevent the complications caused by the infection. That is why we do not vaccinate people with active symptoms.
CAN THE COVID-19 VACCINE GIVE YOU COVID-19?
NO. The COVID-19 vaccine cannot and will not give you COVID-19.
The current vaccines authorized in Canada work by helping your body develop specific antibodies that will fight the virus. The vaccine does not contain the SARS-Co-2 virus, and therefore, does not cause infection of any sort.
SHOULD I GET THE COVID-19 VACCINE EVEN IF I ALREADY HAD COVID-19?
YES. People who have had COVID-19 can still benefit from getting vaccinated due to the severe health risks associated with the virus and the fact that re-infection is possible. There is currently insufficient exact information available to say if or how long people are protected from getting COVID-19 after they have had it. Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 lasts for a couple of months and that the vaccine offers better protection than natural immunity.
Speak to your health care professional for more information.
CAN I STOP WEARING A MASK AND TAKING SAFETY PRECAUTIONS AFTER GETTING VACCINATED?
NO. Those who get the COVID-19 vaccine are still strongly recommended to practice social distancing and continue wearing masks until further notice. The vaccine does not stop the virus from entering your body, it prevents you from developing moderate to severe symptoms. It is not yet clear whether those vaccinated can still carry and transmit the virus to others, even when they themselves don’t get sick.
Therefore, in order to protect those around you, it is important to continue following government’s recommended safety measures.
COVID-19 VACCINATION ROLLOUT: WHEN IS IT MY TURN?
Vaccination plans vary according to provinces, eligibility and availability. To find out when you can get vaccinated, check out the Government of Canada's vaccine rollout page.
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.