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COVID-19 vaccine: ImmunizeBC answers your most burning questions

How do I get an immunization card? Can I visit my grandparents if they’ve had the vaccine? Answers to these questions and many more.
ImmunizeBC has set out to answer your most burning questions surrounding the coronavirus vaccine. File photo

As vaccines for the coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to be administered across the province, ImmunizeBC has set out to answer British Columbians' questions about the inoculations. 

Aside from providing resources to find more information, ImmunizeBC also dispels misconceptions about the vaccine’s production and ingredients. 

While answers to all 93 questions can be found on ImmunizeBC’s website, we're spotlighting a few FAQs that might be at the top of your list.

Q: What are the common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine? If I have a side effect do I need to report it?

A: It is normal and expected to have common reactions after you receive the COVID-19 vaccine. These do not need to be reported. Please read about the common expected reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine in the BCCDC vaccine after care sheet

Common side effects:

  • May include pain, redness, swelling and itchiness where the vaccine was given.
  • Some people experience local injection site reactions within 1-2 days after the vaccine, and other people experience local injection site reactions starting a week or more after they get the vaccine.
  • Local injection site reactions are a normal part of your body’s immune response to the vaccine and will resolve within a few days. A cool, damp cloth or wrapped ice pack where the vaccine was given may help.
  • These local injection reactions will go away on their own; however, you may feel unwell for a day or two. If you are unable to carry on with your regular activities because of these symptoms, you can take medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tempra) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Check with your health care provider if you need advice about medication.

If you have concerns about any symptoms you develop after receiving the vaccine, speak with your healthcare provider or call 8-1-1 for advice. To report a potential adverse event following immunization with the COVID-19 vaccine, contact the immunization provider that gave you the COVID-19 vaccine. You can also contact your local health unit and ask to speak to a public health nurse.

Q: Can I still get COVID-19 and pass it on to other people once I’m vaccinated?

A: We can’t say with certainty, but it is likely that you can still carry the virus even if you’re vaccinated. We do know that the vaccine will protect people from getting sick from the virus, but it’s possible that you could still carry the virus and be contagious to others even though you got your immunization. We will learn more as the clinical trials continue for another 2 years. In the meantime, we’ll need to continue wearing our masks and practicing physical distancing.

Q: After a senior in a care home has both shots can they come out of the facility for visits with family?

A: To best protect our seniors in residential care facilities we need to continue to follow public health recommendations such as frequent hand washing, wearing a mask and staying at least 2 metres from others, even after both doses have been received. These measures need to be observed until the majority of people in BC have been vaccinated and herd immunity is achieved.

Q: Was the development of the COVID-19 vaccines rushed or pushed through? Do we really know it’s safe?

A: The medical and scientific community is confident in the vaccine’s safety, because of the track record of Canada (and B.C.’s) vaccine approval and safety monitoring system. While it’s true that normally vaccines take an average of 10 years to approve, this is because of several factors, most of which have nothing to do with the actual science. One obvious factor is funding - often, scientists have to look for funding after each phase in the development of a vaccine. This delays the work for years. In other words, rather than being able to pursue science, usually scientists take long pauses looking for funding. In the case of the COVID-19 vaccine, this was not an issue.

Another reason that vaccine approvals take very long is again tied to funding but in a different way. Normally, the 3 different trial phases are done one at a time, because they don’t usually have the funding to conduct them all at once. Instead, this time all three phases were done at the same time with the help of volunteers and sufficient funding. Again, this means that the end data and safety tests are exactly the same as other vaccines that have been approved in Canada. Learn more about how B.C. will monitor vaccine uptake, safety and effectiveness.

Q: If I have two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, can I travel to and from Canada without travel restrictions?

A: ImmunizeBC cannot provide recommendations on travel restrictions in Canada if you have received either one or two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

According to the Canadian Government travel advisory website, non-essential travel is to be avoided with no exceptions currently listed for anyone with one or both doses of the vaccine. 

Q: I did not get an immunization card for my Moderna Vaccine, how do I get one?

A: Ask for a card when you receive your 2nd dose. It is important after receiving any immunization to have a record of what you have had. Most people will receive an immunization record when they receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Keep your record of immunization as it contains important information about the date and type of vaccine you receive. In addition, by registering for B.C.’s Health Gateway, you will be able to access a digital version of your COVID-19 immunization record.

Q: Why aren’t people with mental health issues prioritized in the vaccine rollout?

A: The decisions around the vaccine roll-out were made with the goal of preventing severe illness and death. The evidence tells us that the single greatest risk factor for severe illness and death from COVID-19 is age. This is why for the most part, the roll-out is based on age. Given the reality of vaccine supply, decisions are being made based on evidence and science that aim to protect the most at-risk in our communities.

We know this doesn’t make it any easier, but we hope it provides some clarity on why the rollout will begin this way. You can find resources specific to managing mental health during this pandemic provided by the provincial government.