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Everything you need to know about COVID-19 vaccines in Canada

Wondering when you can get vaccinated for COVID-19 in Canada? Got questions about the vaccines? We’ve put together a list of important resources to answer your top questions about COVID-19 vaccines for Canadians. Here’s what you need to know.

We will continue to update this page as more information about COVID-19 vaccines in Canada becomes available. This page was last updated on March 26, 2021 and has been reviewed by our Canadian healthcare provider.

Official COVID-19 vaccine information

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Understanding the vaccines

Are the different COVID-19 vaccines all the same?

No. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, companies like Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson have all been trying to develop their own COVID-19 vaccine using different research and techniques. At the moment, the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccines have been approved by Health Canada.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are somewhat similar as they both use a technology called messenger RNA, or mRNA. These vaccines don’t contain a weakened version of COVID-19. Instead, they contain material that teaches our cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response. Once triggered, your body then creates antibodies that can help you fight an infection from the real virus. Studies showed that the Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective and the Moderna vaccine is 94.1% effective in preventing COVID-19.

The AstraZeneca and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccines are the same type of vaccine. They are viral vector-based vaccines, using SARS-Cov-2 spike proteins to trigger an immune response. The recombinant viral vector used is the adenovirus, the same virus that causes the common cold. The viral vector in the vaccine produces the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, a protein also found on the COVID-19 virus. This method allows your body to build an immune response to the spike protein without exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

The main difference is that the AstraZeneca vaccine requires two doses while the Janssen vaccine only requires one. The AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines have similar efficacy rates – around 62% for AstraZeneca and 66% for Janssen.

How long does it take for the vaccines to work?

For the Pfizer vaccine, you must receive two doses. The second dose should be administered 21 days after the first.

For the Moderna vaccine, you must receive two doses. The second dose should be administered one month after the first.

For the AstraZeneca vaccine, you must receive two doses. The second dose should be administered 4 to 12 weeks after the first.

For the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine, you only need one dose.

For the Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines to work best, you need to get both doses. Some immunity to COVID-19 occurs following the first dose, but the best response is obtained two to four weeks after the second dose.

Are there side effects?

The side effects for the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccines have been shown to be relatively mild: pain around the injection site, temporary lymph node enlargement, and, occasionally, fever, headache, and flu-like symptoms.

Health Canada recommends that you check the ingredients list in all of the vaccines on the Health Canada website and speak with your physician about any serious allergies you have before receiving any of the vaccines.

As with any new vaccine, potential rare side effects will continue to be monitored very closely. We will update this page when new information becomes available.

Once I get vaccinated, how long will my immunity to COVID-19 last?

At the moment, we simply don’t know. Initial results from studies suggest that we could have a fairly durable immunity, but further studies are required to answer this question.

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Getting vaccinated

Where can I find the latest information about the vaccine rollout?

Visit the Health Canada “Vaccines for COVID-19: Authorized vaccines” page for the latest, reliable information about the vaccine rollout and the list of authorized vaccines. You can also follow the Health Canada and Public Health Agency of Canada Twitter account.

Who can get vaccinated right now?

COVID-19 vaccines will first be made available for healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents. Individuals over the age of 60 can book an appointment to receive the vaccine at a pharmacy. Other eligible individuals include First Nations, Métis, and Inuit adults, recipients of chronic home healthcare, residents and staff at long-term care homes, retirement homes, and assisted living facilities, frontline healthcare workers, personal support workers, and primary caregivers of the elderly or those receiving home care.

Canada is on track to receive 36.5 million doses by the end of June. Realistically, it may take several months before the vaccines can be made available for the general public. For now, the general public must continue to wait, although it is encouraging to know that help is on the way. We will update this page when new information becomes available.

Are the vaccines safe?

Health Canada has conducted a rigorous scientific review of the available scientific evidence to assess the safety, efficacy, and quality of the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccines. No major safety concerns have been identified.

That being said, some people still fear vaccines even when many studies have been completed proving their safety and effectiveness. Questions about safety will need to be addressed so that people feel comfortable. Hopefully, seeing others around them get the vaccine and experience little or no side effects will convince those who are hesitant to get the vaccine.

Should I get vaccinated if I’ve had COVID-19?

Yes. While your body can produce antibodies after being infected with COVID-19, this immunity may not last for long. More research is required to determine just how long people who’ve recovered from COVID-19 will remain immune from the virus. There have been reported cases of re-infection with COVID-19.

When will pregnant people be able to get vaccinated?

Pregnant women have a risk of experiencing severe illness if they contract COVID-19. That said, there currently isn’t enough research available about the impact of the vaccine on pregnant women. We recommend discussing your specific circumstances with your doctor to decide on the best course of action.

Is it safe for children to be vaccinated?

At present, there is not enough data to understand the impact of COVID-19 vaccinations on children.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for people 16 years of age and older. The safety and efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine hasn’t been established among people under 16 years old.

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for people 18 years of age and older. The safety and efficacy of the Moderna vaccine hasn’t been established among people under 18 years old.

The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for people 18 years of age and older. The safety and efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine hasn’t been established among people under 18 years old.

The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for people 18 years of age and older. The safety and efficacy of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine hasn’t been established among people under 18 years old.

Maple is currently offering independent COVID-19 tests for international travellers in the GTHA. Schedule your test online.

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Returning to normal

Will you have to get the vaccine every year similar to the common flu vaccine?

It’s not yet certain how frequently the COVID-19 vaccine needs to be administered. Researchers will study whether COVID-19 vaccines need to be administered annually or as a “booster shot” every few years.

Can I stop following physical distancing rules and travel restrictions once I get the vaccine?

In the short-term, physically distancing and limiting travel to essential trips is still advised. It’s uncertain whether vaccinated individuals can be asymptomatic carriers of the vaccine, since this was not part of initial studies. If vaccinated individuals do become asymptomatic carriers, they can infect others who haven’t had a chance to receive the vaccine.

What is herd immunity?

Herd immunity is achieved when a certain percentage of the population is vaccinated and the chain of transmission is broken. This means that we don’t have to wait until everyone is vaccinated to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but we do have to achieve significant vaccination numbers.

How many people need to be vaccinated before herd immunity can be achieved?

Currently, it’s unknown how many people need to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity from COVID-19. Further research is required. However, some experts anticipate that at least 70% of the population will need to be vaccinated in order for herd immunity to be achieved.

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Additional resources

Allergic reactions from the COVID-19 vaccine
While the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine is great news, some people are understandably concerned about the possibility of allergic reaction.

Read more

The COVID-19 vaccine and herd immunity
Society will be able to return to normal once we achieve herd immunity. Learn what herd immunity is, and how you can help speed up the process.

Read more

Will life go back to normal after we get the COVID-19 vaccine?
We're all excited to hear that a COVID-19 vaccine has been approved in Canada. So, when can we expect life to go back to normal?

Read more

What we know so far about COVID-19 vaccines and immunity
A COVID-19 vaccine has been approved, but many of us still have questions about the way immunity will work. Here's what we know so far.

Read more

What is the COVID-19 vaccine?
A COVID-19 vaccine has just been approved in Canada. Here's what you need to know.

Read more

Schedule an independent COVID-19 test for travel.

In partnership with Switch Health, we offer COVID-19 tests for passengers who are travelling internationally and require a negative test.

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