With limited vaccine supplies, first doses have been provided to those most at risk, starting with elderly residents in long-term care facilities and staff who care for them, as well as healthcare providers working in Intensive Care Units, Emergency Rooms and COVID medical wards.
Other priority groups will receive the vaccine in the coming weeks. The general public will be vaccinated later this year. Watch for information from the Provincial Health Officer (which we will share on this page) about when this will start.
Thank you for your patience, and please continue to do all you can to prevent the spread of the virus, and to keep you and your loved ones safe. This means reducing non-essential travel, wearing a mask when you’re out, staying six feet from others, limiting contact to those living in your household, and washing your hands frequently.
Below is an extensive list of answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the COVID-19 vaccines. Click on these links for questions and answers for these general topics:
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Our first shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine arrived in mid-January, and the first doses were offered to residential care residents and staff. See the Peak story about arrival of the first vaccines here.
It will likely be months before more widespread vaccination is possible, but we will keep this page updated with the most current information.
Vaccination will happen in phases. The first groups to get vaccinated between January and February will be:
From February to March, the immunization program will expand to include:
Following the groups listed above, all others in B.C. can get vaccinated, if the vaccines available are recommended for them. (Some people are currently advised not to be vaccinated, see who should not get the vaccine?)
The provincial goal is to ensure that everyone in B.C. for whom vaccines are recommended will have the opportunity to get vaccinated by the end of 2021. See the details here.
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 vulnerable to severe illness first. This includes immunizing those who work amongst vulnerable populations.
B.C. plans to immunize priority groups between December and March. When the time comes for the public to sign up for a vaccine, this information will be widely shared.
We make sure this page is up-to-date with the latest information.
No. The COVID-19 vaccine will be free for everyone in British Columbia who is eligible to receive it.
No. There are limited supplies of the vaccines available and there are currently no vaccines available for private purchase.
It’s up to you whether you want a COVID-19 vaccination. Feeling worried or hesitant is completely normal when something is new. However, we can be reassured that Health Canada has a thorough approval process that ensures the safety of vaccines and medicines.
In some rare cases people can have a reaction after vaccination. Read more about side effects here. Getting vaccinated is important. It is the best way to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our community from the virus. Given the serious health consequences of COVID-19, the low likelihood of a serious reaction to a vaccine is outweighed by the benefits to you and your loved ones.
Priority groups will be contacted based on the roll-out plan (see more information here). When the vaccine starts becoming available to the general public, this page will be updated with more information.
Most vaccines require two doses, spaced at least 3 weeks apart.
This information will be provided when you receive your first dose.
A registration and record system for vaccination is in development, including a process to register for vaccine access and to receive a formal record of immunization. More information will be shared about this as it becomes available.
Not at present. There are currently only two vaccines approved in Canada, Moderna and Pfizer mRNA vaccines, and distribution is limited.
No, influenza vaccines protect against viruses that cause influenza, often called the flu. The vaccine does not protect against other viruses or bacteria that cause common colds, stomach flu, or COVID-19. BCCDC research has found that the influenza vaccine does not increase the risk of coronavirus.
Vaccines work by teaching your body's immune system to remember and recognize a virus. Your body can then defend you if you are exposed in the future.
This page on Health Canada’s site offers information on the different types of vaccines that have been approved and those in development.
We are still learning how our immune systems respond to COVID-19. We are also learning how long immunity lasts after getting COVID-19 or after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Even though some people will be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine soon, it is still very important to follow public health orders, wash your hands, physical distance, wear a mask, keep your bubbles small, reduce non-essential travel, and stay home when sick. These layers of protection are still essential for all people in B.C.
We still do not know how long immunity lasts after getting COVID-19 or after getting the COVID-19 vaccine, but early data suggests that the vaccination response is very strong. This page will be updated as more information becomes available.
Yes. While we know from the studies so far that vaccination is very effective at preventing COVID-19 symptoms, no vaccine is 100% protective. Importantly, while we expect that vaccination will decrease transmission (the ability to spread the virus to others), we do not yet know just how effective this will be. As more studies are done in the coming weeks this information should become clearer.
It will likely be many months before it is safe to let down our defenses. It is still very important to follow public health orders, wash your hands, physically distance, keep your bubbles small, reduce non-essential travel, wear a mask indoors in public spaces, and stay home when sick. None of these layers of protection are enough on their own, but combined they are powerful protection for yourself and for those around you.
The answer to this question is still unknown. Vaccination is likely to reduce, but not eliminate, the chances of carrying or spreading this virus unknowingly. Until we do have the answer, it is still very important to follow public health recommendations.
Herd immunity occurs when enough people are immune to a virus through natural infection or vaccination to eliminate widespread transmission - occasional cases or clusters might still occur, but it would not cause a pandemic.
The exact percentage of people required for herd immunity from COVID-19 is not known, but based on information from other viruses it is expected to occur when roughly 60 to 70% of the population is vaccinated.
When people in British Columbia decide to get the COVID-19 vaccine, they are not only protecting themselves from the virus, they are also protecting everyone around them.
Health Canada has conducted a rigorous scientific review of the available medical evidence to assess the safety of the vaccines. No major safety concerns have been identified.
Several vaccines being developed use the same technology as vaccines that have already been used successfully for other diseases. The development of vaccines is a multi-step process, and pharmaceutical companies are completing many steps simultaneously as well as preparing for large-scale production before receiving approval due to the urgency of the pandemic. Approval is still a rigorous process, with safety approvals not being changed. Health Canada instead shortened the administrative and organizational process. The requirements for safety data in the clinical trials are as strict as the regular processes.
There is always a small chance of side effects, no matter the drug or vaccine you’re taking. Serious side effects are assessed in clinical trials. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccine through these trials, and many millions more now in general populations worldwide.
Once the vaccine is approved and begins to be used in a larger population, surveillance and evaluation continues to identify any side effects that are less frequent. This happens for all vaccines.
To watch a short video on how vaccines are developed, click here.
For more information on vaccine development and safety, the best sources are:
Any drug or vaccine can have a small chance of side effects. Given the serious health consequences of COVID-19, for most people the low likelihood of a serious reaction to a vaccine is outweighed by the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine, which has shown to be very effective at protecting people from COVID-19.
COVID-19 immunization is being carefully documented. B.C. will closely monitor vaccine safety, uptake and effectiveness. Once a vaccine is approved and begins to be used, vaccine safety is continuously monitored to identify serious adverse events. If these events happen, authorities investigate to identify whether the vaccine is directly responsible for the adverse effect. If required, a vaccine can be withdrawn from the market and not used.
In clinical trials, those who received the vaccines were about 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.
However, it will likely be many months before it is safe to let our defenses down. Even once vaccinated it is still very important to follow public health orders, wash your hands, physically distance, keep your bubbles small, reduce non-essential travel, wear a mask indoors in public spaces, and stay home when sick.
The exact answer to this question is still unknown, but we expect vaccination will reduce transmission. Vaccines appear highly effective at preventing the symptoms and complications of COVID-19, which reduces coughing, sneezing, and other droplets that can spread this virus more widely.
Based on what we know so far, people who get infected with coronavirus but never show symptoms (asymptomatic) can still spread this virus, but it appears they do so at a much lower rate. We don’t yet know for sure how well the vaccines prevent asymptomatic infection, which means that some vaccinated people could theoretically still transmit the virus, though likely to a much lesser degree.
Important note: asymptomatic people (those who are infected but never develop symptoms) are different from pre-symptomatic people (those who don’t have symptoms today but develop them within a few days). Pre-symptomatic people can be highly contagious for 24-48 hours before they develop symptoms, which is why contact tracers look for close contacts in the days before someone gets ill with COVID-19.
For the foreseeable future, it is still very important that we all follow Public Health orders, wash our hands, physical distance, keep our bubbles very small, reduce non-essential travel, wear a mask when needed and stay home when sick.
People should not be vaccinated if they:
People MAY receive the vaccine after discussing it with their health care provider if they:
Studies suggest that people may experience symptoms after COVID-19 vaccination similar to those which might be experienced after a flu shot. These typically last 1-2 days and are generally minor. Many people have no symptoms, but common symptoms after a vaccination might include:
As with all vaccines, there’s a chance that there will be a serious side effect, but these are very rare.
A serious side effect might be something like a severe allergic reaction (e.g. anaphylaxis). Anaphylaxis was not noted in the vaccine trials (over 70,000 people), but those with a history of this condition were excluded from study. The rate of anaphylaxis in the general population, based on U.S. data, is estimated at roughly 1 per 100,000 (out of every 100,000 people vaccinated, one person will have this reaction). If you have had anaphylaxis in the past you should contact your healthcare provider to discuss if it is safe for you to get the vaccine.
Current COVID-19 vaccines trials are in adults. Initially, vaccines are expected to be approved for adult use. COVID-19 is a more serious illness for adults.
Neither of the COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved are recommended for children until more research is conducted.
There are new variant strains of the virus from the UK and South Africa, both of which have now been identified in B.C. (in very limited numbers). Both strains are more infectious than the existing strains in our province.
Vaccine effectiveness for these newer variations is still being studied. So far, the approved vaccines have been effective against many subtle variations of this virus. Given the very large numbers of people with COVID-19 worldwide, however, there are many opportunities for this virus to adapt. The faster we reduce the number of new cases, the better we can limit the number of variations.
While the routine COVID-19 tests (from swab or gargle) are extremely accurate, they do not specify which variation is found. The BCCDC does additional testing on about one of every 20 positive tests to find the variation of the virus. This is how we know these strains are in B.C. However, we can’t be certain exactly how many cases there are.
Additional travel restrictions are being considered to limit the spread of more infectious variants. If they do circulate more widely, this could result in higher case numbers and longer restrictions. In the meantime, closely following the Public Health measures, including travel restrictions within the province, is still our best defence.
When the time comes you will be informed where you can get your vaccination.
A qualified healthcare provider will administer your vaccine.
The COVID-19 vaccine is a small injection, usually given in the large muscle of the shoulder. This is similar to a flu shot or other vaccination.
For optimal protection, a second (booster) dose is given at least 3 weeks after the first shot. It is important not to receive the booster dose too early because the first response needs time to take effect. To establish best protection you must get both doses of the vaccine.
When you go for your first injection your healthcare provider will advise you what steps you need to take to get the second dose. It is important to keep a record of all immunizations you receive. Be sure to bring that record when returning for your second dose.
COVID-19 vaccines are no more painful than any other vaccination. Most people describe the sensation as uncomfortable rather than painful.
This After Care Sheet from the BC Centre for Disease Control provides all the information you need, including what to do right after getting the vaccine, and what to expect in the days after you are vaccinated.
Vancouver Coastal Health, in partnership with the Powell River Division of Family Practice, is now offering additional COVID-19 testing at a new clinic located on the upper level of the Powell River Recreation Complex.