January 26, 2021
The South Georgian Bay Community Health Centre is committed to ensuring the health and safety of our community, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, Health Canada has authorized the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 mRNA vaccines based on robust scientific data and evidence. This approval is a very exciting turning point in the fight against COVID-19.
As the COVID-19 vaccine begins to be rolled out, we know you have questions. Below are answers to some common questions gathered from local physicians, public health, our provincial and federal governments and credible scientific sources.
Who should get the COVID-19 vaccine?
We are encouraging those who are able to be vaccinated to consider it as the best defence against COVID-19. At this time, there are no COVID-19 vaccine centres open to the public in the province, and it is anticipated that public vaccinations will begin in the summer of 2021.
Currently, immunization is strictly by invitation and appointment only. On December 15, 2020, Ontario started to roll out its three-phased implementation plan. We are currently in Phase One of the three phases. The vaccine is currently being offered to:
- health care workers
- essential caregivers
- long-term care home and retirement home residents
- First Nation communities and urban Indigenous populations, including Métis and Inuit adults
Phase Two is expected to be completed by end of July 2021 and Phase Three for the general population could begin as early as August 2021, pending availability of vaccines.
For more information about Ontario’s Vaccine Distribution Implementation Plan, click here.
Have there been enough steps and safeguards taken in the development of the vaccine?
Yes. We know that the global population is suffering under the strain of COVID-19 which means pharmaceutical companies, researchers, medical experts the world over have poured unprecedented resources into this vaccine.
Creating a new vaccine typically takes years. However, the development of COVID-19 vaccines has happened quickly for many reasons, including:
- being informed by decades of research on other strains of coronavirus prior to COVID-19
- advances in science and technology
- international collaboration among scientists, health professionals, researchers, industry and governments
- increased dedicated funding
Before any vaccines are available in Ontario, they:
- undergo rigorous clinical trials to ensure they are safe and effective
- are evaluated and authorized for use by Health Canada, using rigorous standards
Ontario’s plan to make sure vaccines remain safe for Ontarians includes:
- securely and safely transporting and storing vaccines at required conditions and temperatures
- establishing safe clinic spaces to give people immunizations, including providing the required training to those administering vaccines
- monitoring for any adverse reactions or side effects that may occur after vaccination and taking appropriate measures, including working with the federal government and other provinces and territories
How are the vaccines made?
This vaccines are made using mRNA technology – mRNA has been studied and used for cancer treatments for upwards of 30 years, but this is the first vaccine using the technology. There are two vaccines made this way (Pfizer and Moderna). mRNA vaccines cannot give someone COVID-19 as they do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19. They also do not affect or interact with our DNA in any way. There will be other vaccines coming later which are made with older technology. More is information is available here.
If the vaccines are 94-95% effective, does that mean I cannot get COVID-19?
No. Vaccinated individuals can still be infected, but vaccination greatly reduces the risk of infection, and reduces the risk of an infection progressing to the more severe form of the disease.
What are the possible side effects from taking the vaccines?
Serious adverse reactions to vaccines are extremely rare. They happen less than one time in a million. Once a vaccine is in use, Canada has a strong vaccine safety monitoring system to alert public health authorities of changing trends or unusual adverse events that were not previously reported. The side effects observed during the clinical trials for the approved vaccines are very similar to other vaccines. They were all mild or moderate and included things like pain at the site of injection, body chills, feeling tired and feeling feverish. For more information on potential side effects, visit https://covid-19.ontario.ca/covid-19-vaccine-safety.
Read Health Canada’s recommendations for people with serious allergies.
Can you get the vaccine if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or under 16 years of age?
Children under the age of 16, pregnant and breastfeeding women were not included in trials for the vaccines that are currently available. However, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada has stated that “the documented risk of not getting the COVID-19 vaccine outweighs the theorized and undescribed risk of being vaccinated during pregnancy or while breastfeeding and vaccination should be offered.” The Ontario Ministry of Health guidance states that pregnant women should discuss risks and benefits with their family physician or primary healthcare provider.
Currently the vaccine is not recommended for children under the age of 16.
When I get vaccinated, do I need to continue to follow public health guidelines and wear a mask and socially distance?
Yes. At this time, there is not enough evidence on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in preventing asymptomatic infection and reducing transmission of COVID-19.
Everyone must continue practicing the 3 W’s (Wear a mask, Watch your distance, Wash your hands) and the 3 C’s (Avoid: Closed spaces, especially with poor ventilation; Crowded places; Close contact settings).
We will continue to update our community as we receive more information.
Credible resources for further information: