Vaccine Facts • How to Get the Vaccine • Vaccine Safety • Should I get one if . . . ? • Children and Youth • Vaccine Variants • Second and Third Doses • Public Health Guidelines • Proof of Vaccination
What's New on this Page
1. What is the vaccine?
Vaccines are products that produce immunity to a specific disease, such as COVID-19. When you have immunity to COVID-19, which is a serious and sometimes fatal disease, it means you may be exposed to it without developing severe illness.
Currently, there are four COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in Canada:
2. Why is it important to get a COVID-19 vaccination?
The vaccines are the best way to protect you against COVID-19. In clinical trials and in the administration of billions of vaccines throughout the world, evidence overwhelmingly shows that those who received a vaccine are less likely to become sick with COVID-19. Fully vaccinated people are also very highly protected against severe illness (hospitalization and death), which is the main purpose of getting this vaccine.
When you get immunized, you help protect others as well, including those who are unable to get the vaccine. The more people in a community who are vaccinated, the harder it is for the virus to spread and mutate. Reduced access to stable housing, income, clean water and/or health and social services place some Indigenous peoples at higher risk of COVID-19. The vaccine is one way that Indigenous (and other) people can protect themselves from this virus.
All people in BC age five and older are eligible to receive a vaccine. The FNHA's Medical Officers strongly recommend that you opt to get the vaccine.
3. Which vaccine brand will I get?
All of the vaccines available in Canada are effective, safe, and have passed all of Canada's rigorous standards for testing.
Clinics in First Nations communities, Indigenous-specific vaccine clinics and provincial clinics provide mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna). In most cases, the same brand of vaccine will be offered for your second dose, although, depending on availability, the alternate mRNA vaccine may be offered. These vaccines are interchangeable, so there is no worry with “mixing and matching" doses. An mRNA vaccine will be offered as a second dose for anyone who received AstraZeneca as a first dose.
4. How can I get a COVID-19 vaccine?
There are two methods by which Indigenous people in BC can get vaccinated:
A First Nations person who received their first dose in community and wishes to receive their second dose through the provincial program may do so. In addition, a First Nations person who received their first dose through the provincial program may receive their second dose through a First Nations community clinic.
All people in BC age five or older may register for a COVID-19 vaccination appointment as part of the province's vaccination program. Youth 12 to 17 do not need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian to receive the vaccine. Children five to 11 require consent (see question #11).
To get vaccinated through a provincial clinic, register online through the
provincial vaccine registration webpage.
In order to register online, you must provide your first and last name, date of birth, postal code, your Personal Health Number (PHN isn't mandatory if you don't have one) and an email address or a phone number that can receive text messages.
After registering, confirmation via email or text should come within 15 to 30 minutes, but could take up to 24 hours.
You can also register by phone at 1-833-838-2323 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., every day, with reduced hours on statutory holidays. Dial 711 if you are hearing-impaired.
5. Will there be more vaccine clinics in my home community?
Like the provincial clinics, the FNHA clinics will offer vaccination to everyone age five and over. Clinics are being scheduled for booster doses, people who missed receiving their first or second doses, and children and youth.
Community leaders and First Nations health clinics will receive official confirmation from the FNHA when a vaccine clinic is available for their community. FNHA regional teams will then provide wrap-around support to move forward with community vaccination campaigns as needed. Community leaders may refer to the
Toolkit for Communities Receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine.
Some things individuals can do to be ready for when vaccine is available in their communities:
6. Are COVID-19 vaccines safe?
Health Canada was able to approve the COVID-19 vaccines quickly by delaying approval of other medicines and vaccines and prioritizing COVID-19 vaccines for approval. No safety standards were changed or compromised for reviews and approvals.
Scientists have spent more than 30 years developing mRNA technology (the technology Pfizer and Moderna used to develop their vaccines) for use in medicine. They have been used in clinical trials in people since at least 2010, both for fighting cancer and as vaccines for infectious diseases. If there were long-term effects of the technology, these would have been found. We can feel assured that the COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada are safe in both the short and long term, effective, and that they will prevent serious illness and death.
Every possible vaccine reaction identified by primary care providers is carefully reviewed by experts, long after approval of the vaccine. Public Health officials assess the risks and benefits of a particular vaccine for the population they serve and decide whether to recommend its use.
For additional information on vaccine safety, visit this link at the BC Centre for Disease Control:
Monitoring vaccine uptake, safety and effectiveness
The most common kinds of reactions occur because your immune system is responding to the vaccine. These side effects are usually mild to moderate and similar to ones you might get from any shots: pain in the arm at the site of the injection, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain and low-grade fever. These reactions may be stronger for some people, particularly after the second dose. Reactions usually don't last more than a few days.
Allergic reactions are fortunately rare, but can occur when receiving any vaccine or medicine. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include hives (bumps on the skin that are often very itchy), swelling of the face, tongue or throat, difficulty breathing.
Allergic reactions are treatable by the medical staff who administer the vaccine. This is why you are asked to stay at the clinic at least 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine – and longer if you have a history of allergies. Clinic staff have the training and medications required to respond to an allergic reaction.
An inflammation of the heart called
myocarditis or pericarditis can happen rarely in the first week after receiving an mRNA vaccine, mostly in young men and youth, and occurring more frequently following the second dose. Cases are generally mild and resolve on their own. As COVID-19 is far more serious than the possible risk of myocarditis or pericarditis it is strongly recommended to get the vaccine. As always, if you have a symptom that is unexpected after receiving a vaccine you should seek health care.
Above all, the major health risks associated with getting COVID-19 far outweigh these minor risks or discomfort from possible allergic reactions and side effects.
8. Should I get the vaccine if I've tested positive for COVID-19 in the past?
If you've had COVID-19 you should still get vaccinated once you have recovered. This is because you still may not be immune to the virus that causes COVID-19 and you could get infected again. It is important that you wait for the full isolation period before getting the vaccine so that you do not expose people at your vaccination clinic to the virus.
9. Should I get the vaccine when I am in quarantine?
You should not get vaccinated if you are in quarantine:
If you live in a remote or isolated community scheduled for a vaccine clinic, and have been quarantining, you may be able to receive the vaccine if the vaccine provider is able to do so in a way that minimizes the risk of exposure for others.
Do not go to the clinic, but instead contact your health care provider to discuss arrangements. You must be exhibiting no symptoms and will be asked to have a symptom check immediately prior to vaccination.
10. Should I get the vaccine if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?
Experts strongly agree that pregnant and breastfeeding individuals would benefit from receiving the vaccine as the risk of getting COVID-19 outweighs the potential risk of being vaccinated during pregnancy.
Review this infographic about
COVID-19 Vaccines and Your Baby.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding and have questions about the vaccine, please contact your health care provider, or call HealthLinkBC at 811 or the First Nations Virtual Doctor of the Day at 1-855-344-3800.
11. Is the COVID-19 vaccine available to youth under the age of 12?
Yes. The Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine is authorized in Canada for children aged five to 11. Clinics for this age group begin Nov. 29, 2021.
Although children are less likely to get severe COVID-19 infections, they can still get sick from the virus or have long-term consequences, and they may also spread the infection to others. The more people who are vaccinated, the more protected that unvaccinated people – like children under five years of age – will be. Children above two years of age will also benefit from wearing a mask in all indoor public settings, as is recommended for all residents of BC by the Provincial Health Officer
under the current public health orders.
All youth aged 12 to 17 are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Currently, both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are authorized for this age group.
Youth aged 12 to 17 who are able to make medical decisions can receive the vaccine without being accompanied by a parent or guardian. Under Mature Minor Consent and Immunization (in The Infants Act), children can consent to receive medical treatment – including vaccinations – as long as the youth understands the details of the treatment, including risks and benefits, and a health care provider has determined that the treatment is in the youth's best interest. We recommend parents and guardians discuss getting the vaccine with their children to help them make their decision.
Children aged five to 11 require a parent or guardian to give verbal permission to get the pediatric vaccine, or written permission if the child is accompanied by somebody other than a parent or guardian.
Regardless of age, it is important to keep your child or youth up to date with routine immunizations for other
vaccine-preventable diseases. A strong immune system is important to reduce the impact of COVID-19.
12. What are variants and does the vaccine work on them?
A variant is a strain of the COVID-19 virus that has mutated or changed from the original one. Small mutations are a normal part of the reproduction of all viruses– and indeed all living things–and can give rise to changes in how the virus spreads from person to person, how sick it makes us, and whether or not an older vaccine will still be effective.
The main variant currently of concern in BC is the Delta variant. This variant spreads more easily and causes more severe illness than both the original virus and other variants we have seen to this point
Two doses of COVID-19 vaccine provide very good protection against all current variants, including the Delta variant, especially against severe outcomes such as hospitalization and death. It is very important to get the second dose to have strong protection and to reduce the seriousness of any infection that may occur.
Until people around the world have had a chance to get vaccinated, the virus will continue to quickly reproduce, with the chance for new mutations to arise–and for vaccines to become less effective in fighting them. It is important that not only our own communities, but people around the world have the opportunity to get vaccinated.
13. How many doses of COVID-19 vaccine do I need?
It is important to get a first and second dose of the vaccine as two doses make up what's known as one “primary series" that will provide the strongest and longest possible protection, both against the original virus and the variants. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two doses to complete the primary series.
You should not be concerned if you are offered a different brand of vaccine than your first vaccine.
It has been determined that this method is safe and effective and all vaccines provide excellent protection against serious disease.
Those who received a first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine will be offered an mRNA vaccine for their second dose. This has likewise been shown to be safe and effective.
If you were immunized through a provincial clinic, approximately 28 days after your first dose, you will get an invitation by text, email or phone call to book your second dose appointment.
If you were immunized with your first dose in community, contact your health centre to find out where or when you can access your second dose.
14. Why are some people getting a third dose of the vaccine?
Some people with compromised immune systems need a third dose of the vaccine to complete their primary vaccine series. People with moderately to severely compromised immune systems generally have lower antibody responses from the initial two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series. The third dose can help build antibodies.
This third dose is not the same as a booster dose. Booster doses bring antibody levels back to a high protective level if they had decreased over time. They also help the protection last for a longer period of time. (See question 15.)
For details, see Information for people who are severely immunocompromised on the provincial website.
Even if you require a third dose to protect your health, you do not need a third dose to be considered fully vaccinated on your BC Vaccine Card. It is based on whether you have your first dose by Sept. 13 and your second dose by Oct. 24. See question #18 for more information about the vaccine card.
15. What is a booster dose?
The COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective. However, just like some other vaccines, such as the annual flu vaccine, there is a gradual decline in protective antibodies over time. It is important to know that the decline is gradual and that your primary series will keep you well protected until you get a booster dose.
To ensure a high level of protection is maintained, the province will be offering COVID-19 booster shots to everyone who wants one, starting with higher risk populations, including Indigenous people.
Both Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) and Moderna (SpikeVax) vaccines will be used for boosters.
Between now and May of 2022, the booster campaign will cover all BC residents aged 18 and over who have received their second dose of vaccine six to eight months ago.
For ages 12-17, no booster is planned at this time, even in vulnerable or high risk youth, including Indigenous people. If a 17-year-old is turning 18, they may be eligible for a booster dose.
If you live in a First Nations community, the FNHA will once again work to provide community based booster clinics, beginning with rural and remote communities, those with the shortest interval between doses 1 and 2 and those with active outbreaks.
If you live away from home (off-reserve) you will be contacted by the provincial online vaccination system.
Scientists will continue to study how long COVID-19 vaccines remain effective in preventing COVID-19 and when and for whom booster doses may be necessary to keep this protection high.
16. Do I have to wear a mask if I'm vaccinated?
People aged five and older must wear a mask in all indoor public spaces throughout BC. Read the
current public health orders here.
17. Can we stop following the public health guidelines for COVID-19 after we are vaccinated?
We need to continue to adhere to all of the recommended public health measures for COVID-19
even if we've been vaccinated.
To stop the spread of the virus, enough people need to be immune either through natural infection or immunization. The WHO estimates that at least 70 per cent of the entire population, including children, would need to be immune to ensure community immunity.
The province's Proof of Vaccination and BC Vaccine Card program permit fully vaccinated individuals to visit non-essential venues and events.
18. What is the Proof of Vaccination and BC Vaccine Card?
Proof of Vaccination is being able to show that you have received the COVID-19 vaccine. This proof is required in BC for people attending certain social and recreational settings and events.
If you don't have a smartphone, computer and printer, you can call 1-833-838-2323 and order a paper copy by phone.
Service BC officers will also print out a record for you (Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey locations don't offer printed copies).
Visit the BC's provincial COVID-19 vaccination website to register for a vaccination and get up-to-date information and help.
Contact your primary care provider or local public health office
or call 8 - 1 - 1. (Take a self-assessment.)
First Nations Virtual Doctor of the DayPhone: 1-855-344-3800Hours: Open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
FNHA Immunization Team (for health care professionals) Email: email@example.com