General Vaccine Information
Information on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine
Information on the Moderna vaccine
COVID-19 Vaccine Questions and Answers
How does the vaccine protect against COVID-19?
mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response without using the live virus that causes COVID-19. Once triggered, our body then makes antibodies. These antibodies help us fight the infection if the real virus does enter our body in the future. The vaccine is given as a needle in the upper arm. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will require two doses.
Who should get the vaccine?
Based on the clinical trials and the approval by Health Canada, the Pfizer vaccine can be used for anyone 16 years of age and over and the Moderna vaccine can be used for anyone 18 years of age and over. The vaccines should not be given to people who are allergic to any of the vaccine ingredients, including polyethylene glycol. Pregnant women and people with conditions that affect their immune system should consult their health care provider. Even if you have already had a COVID-19 infection, you should still receive the vaccine once you have recovered.
What does it mean that a vaccine is "95% effective"?
Vaccine efficacy means how well the vaccine works or its ability to prevent the illness during clinical trials. Vaccine efficacy of 95% indicates a 95% reduction in disease occurrence among the vaccinated group.
Are there any groups who cannot tolerate/receive the vaccine at all?
At this time we know that the vaccine has not been studied in pregnant and breastfeeding women and younger children. It may not be suitable for people allergic to polyethylene glycol, which is an ingredient of vaccine. People with conditions that affect their immune system should consult their health care provider. We expect to receive more detailed information from the vaccine manufacturers and Health Canada as soon as it's available.
What are the expected side effects?
There might be some mild symptoms a day or two after receiving the vaccine. The most common side effects are localized pain or redness or swelling at the injection site. Other symptoms may include mild fever, chills, headache, joint or muscle pain, nausea and vomiting, enlarged lymph nodes under the arm, or feeling tired. As with all vaccines, there's a chance that there will be a serious side effect, but these are rare. A serious side effect might be something like an allergic reaction.
All residents will be asked to report any adverse or unexpected reactions to your local public health nurse, a pharmacist, doctor, or nurse practitioner as soon as possible.
Do you receive some protection from just one dose of the two-dose vaccines?
There is no evidence that individuals have a sufficient antibody reaction to only one dose to provide protection from COVID-19. Two doses are required.
When receiving the first dose of the vaccine, people will be provided documentation of which vaccine they have received and when to return for the second dose.
If I have already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated for COVID-19 when the vaccine is available?
Once vaccination is available to your risk and age group, COVID-19 vaccination will be offered to you regardless of whether you already had COVID-19 infection. However, anyone currently infected with COVID-19 should wait to get vaccinated until after their illness has resolved and they have met the criteria to discontinue isolation.
Do I need to wear a mask and avoid close contact with others once I have received two doses of the vaccine?
Yes. While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important to continue using all the public health protection tools available to help stop this pandemic, like wearing a mask, washing your hands frequently and maintaining physical distancing.
Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before deciding to change recommendations on steps everyone should take to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision.
How quickly will you see an impact from vaccinations?
Vaccination prioritization will offer protection to those who are experiencing the most severe forms of the illness and death. While these first few thousand doses every few weeks will not have an overall impact on community transmission, we hope to see a decline in the most severe cases in our ICUs presently.
We will need to abide by public health measures to continue to bring those transmission rates down. We still must do our part to ease pressure on acute care and public health.
Once you have all long term care and personal care home residents vaccinated, will you be able to lift all the visitation restrictions? Remove cohorting?
This will be considered as vaccination is delivered based on what we are observing. While vaccine will protect those residents, it does not stop COVID-19 transmission in the community.
Once the most vulnerable and health care workers are vaccinated in February/March, will you begin lifting measures?
We will not see vaccine available for the general population likely until the middle of 2021 so public health measures will remain in place. Those public health measures may be increased or decreased, depending on the rates of transmission through the pandemic event.
How will you counter vaccine misinformation?
All health care organizations acknowledge the challenge of misinformation during the pandemic. The federal, provincial and territorial health agencies will be sharing safety information. Campaigns will continue to point Canadians to reliable, science-based information on COVID-19 and the vaccines.
COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery
Will you be making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory?
No. Saskatchewan's immunization programs are voluntary. We have seen a high up-take for immunizations like the childhood immunization program. Saskatchewan coverage rate for two doses of measles for children five years of age is 90.5% as of March 2020.
Will the vaccine be mandatory for health care workers?
No. There are no mandatory vaccinations in Saskatchewan. Even with health care workers prioritized for the vaccine, the continual masking policy and additional measures to protect staff from transmission will remain in place in all health care facilities for the foreseeable future due to the staged roll out of the vaccine for all Canadians.
Which vaccines are arriving in Saskatchewan and when?
Pfizer received Health Canada approval and the first doses arrived in Saskatchewan on Dec. 15. These vaccines were administered to health care workers in Regina. The first part of Phase 1 of the delivery plan began the week of December 21 with health care workers in Saskatoon.
Following Health Canada approval on December 23, Moderna vaccines began arriving in the province in late December and are being allocated first to rural and remote areas. As additional manufacturers receive the required approval, we anticipate receiving their vaccines later in the first quarter of 2021.
Phase 1 of the delivery plan includes priority/at-risk populations and will proceed as vaccines are delivered to Saskatchewan.
How quickly will Saskatchewan residents be vaccinated?
Shipments of vaccine are expected to arrive weekly and in limited numbers; therefore, it will be several months before the entire population will be able to receive the vaccine. It will continue to be very important for all residents to continue following public health measures while the vaccination program is delivered.
Who decided what the priority groups would be?
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization provided federal and provincial health agencies with recommendations on key populations for early COVID-19 immunization. They identified those at high risk of severe illness and death such as people with advanced age as well as workers essential to maintaining the COVID-19 response such as health care workers.
Provincial and territorial governments are responsible for delivering vaccination programs. Each will make their decisions based on these recommendations and the transmission seen in their individual jurisdictions.
Which groups will receive the vaccine first in Saskatchewan?
The first phase of Saskatchewan's vaccine delivery plan focuses on priority populations who are at a higher risk of exposure to the virus or more at risk of serious illness - health care workers, elderly residents in care homes, seniors over 80 and residents in northern remote communities. Immunization will occur as vaccine is delivered to the province.
How will you deliver the ultra-cold vaccine in rural and remote communities?
Because of the logistical requirements of the Pfizer vaccine, we will initially be delivering it to urban centres that have ultra-cold refrigeration available. The Moderna vaccine can be stored in regular temperature freezers and will be used in smaller and rural centres.
Do you have the public health resources to deliver a vaccination program?
Saskatchewan public health has delivered public immunizations for influenza for years, including a mass immunization program for H1N1. While public health staff will be required to deliver the vaccine, there are many other health care providers involved in the delivery of mass vaccination programs. We are likely to be utilizing other public service resources to assist.
Will you be delivering the vaccine in-community or will residents be required to travel?
Depending on the area in the province and the type of vaccine they have received, vaccine may be offered in hospitals, public health clinics, long term care facilities and personal care home, or through mass immunization clinics.
Will pharmacies be delivering COVID-19 vaccinations?
This will be considered when vaccine supply and delivery logistics allow. This is likely occur in 2021.