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. Saskatchewan opened up eligibility to this group April 13, 2021. 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; talk to a health care provider if you are pregnant/breastfeeding. Saskatchewan opened up eligibility to pregnant women April 13, 2021. 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?
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has updated its recommendation on the interval between the first and second doses of authorized COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca/Covishield). Based on evidence NACI's expertise in vaccine science, they are recommending to maximize the number of people benefiting from the first dose by extending the interval between the first and second dose up to four months.
Beginning March 5, all vaccines administered in Saskatchewan will be a first dose, with second doses administered at an interval of up to four months. Residents will be contacted when they are eligible to book their second dose appointment, based on completing the vaccination sequencing and supply.
This delayed second dose strategy does not apply to long-term care and personal care residents and staff who have yet to receive their full two-dose series or to any existing second-dose appointments.
All residents who receive their first dose will still be eligible to receive their second dose when the supply is available. We are currently not booking 2nd dose appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine for all other individuals. Please keep your vaccine card and watch for further updates about 2nd dose appointments.
Please note that it is important to continue to follow all public health measures until Saskatchewan's Chief Medical Health Officer indicates any changes to restrictions. Even if you have received the vaccine, you must still socially distance, wash your hands and follow all mandatory masking protocols.
If I have already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated for COVID-19 when the vaccine is available?
Current evidence suggests reinfection is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection, thus it is recommended that persons with documented acute infection in the preceding 90 days should defer vaccination until the end of this period with the exception of residents in long term care or personal care homes or those 80 years and over living in the community.
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.
What kind of vaccine am I getting?
All of the vaccines being administered are safe and approved by Health Canada for use. All of them are important to help protect the public from severe illness and death from COVID-19. The booking agents do not have access to information about the kind of vaccine you’re getting, and the brand you receive is subject to change, based on available supplies.