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COVID-19 Vaccine Question and Answer

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1. Fully Vaccinated

What does "fully vaccinated" mean?

You are considered "fully vaccinated,"14 days after receiving:

  • the second of two doses of an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna), AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD or Novavax (all interchangeable between the two doses) OR
  • one dose of Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine.

All residents receive optimal protection against current variants of COVID-19 with a third dose. It is highly recommended that all Saskatchewan residents 12 years and older receive their booster doses as soon as they are eligible.

Note that AstraZeneca is no longer available in Saskatchewan as of April 30, 2022. Booster doses do not need to match your previous two dose COVID-19 vaccinations. If you received two doses of AstraZeneca, it is recommended and safe to receive an mRNA vaccine booster immunization.

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2. General

Is the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory?

No. Saskatchewan's immunization programs are voluntary. However, we strongly recommend that everyone who is eligible gets both doses of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series as well as the booster dose.

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.

Who should get the vaccine?

Anyone over the age of five who is eligible should receive a vaccine to protect against COVID-19. If you have concerns, discuss them with your healthcare provider.

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.

Can I still get COVID-19 after vaccination?

COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada are safe and effective and will prevent the most serious health outcomes for the majority of residents but vaccination will not stop 100 per cent of transmission. A percentage of people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 may still develop COVID-19 when exposed to the virus. The effectiveness of the available vaccines increases with two doses and any booster doses. It also takes a few weeks for the body to build antibodies in response to the vaccine. Information Sheets for each type of COVID-19 vaccine are available.

After getting a COVID-19 vaccine, will I test positive for COVID-19 on a PCR (molecular) or rapid antigen test?

None of the authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines cause you to test positive on a lab-based PCR test or a rapid antigen test, which are used to see if you have a current infection. If your body develops an immune response to vaccination, which is the goal, you may test positive on some antibody tests. Antibody (or serology) tests indicate you have developed antibodies in your blood, either from a previous infection, or from immunization. Antibody tests are not used to diagnose a current infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Are there any groups who cannot tolerate/receive the vaccine at all?

Information Sheets for each type of COVID-19 vaccine are available. If you have concerns, you should talk to your health care provider.

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. Information Sheets for each type of COVID-19 vaccine are available

All residents will be asked to report any adverse or unexpected reactions to HealthLine 811.

Do you receive some protection from just one dose of the two-dose vaccines?

You are afforded some protection with one dose, but the two-dose vaccines require a second dose in order to ensure the full immune system response. Third doses are recommended to protect against the current COVID-19 variants. Full protection will help reduce the risk of transmission, as well as prevent the most severe forms of the COVID-19 illness and death.

If I have already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated for COVID-19 when the vaccine is available?

Vaccination is recommended even if you've had COVID-19. As long as you are recovered/no longer infectious you are able to be vaccinated.

Once you have all long-term care and personal care home residents vaccinated, will you be able to lift all the visitation restrictions?

Please check the current visitation policies for Saskatchewan Health Authority facilities before visiting acute and long term care settings, and note that personal care homes will be abiding by any policy in any community where there are restrictions in place for long-term care settings.  

Masking will still be required for all patients and visitors to Saskatchewan's acute care health facilities. Family presence and visitation policies in acute and long-term care settings may be updated, depending on COVID-19 transmission in a community, region or the province.

What brand of vaccine am I getting?

All of the vaccines being administered are effective 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. Information on what type of vaccine is being offered at specific locations is available using the booking tool/phone bookings. Pharmacies will also advise which vaccine is being offered.

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3. SHA Patient Booking System

Who can use SHA's online booking system?
The SHA patient booking system will be available to all citizens with internet access, including those living in border communities and those without Saskatchewan health cards, like new immigrants to our province.

Note that there may be some vaccines or doses that cannot be booked through the SHA's online booking tool. Designated vaccines, including Novavax, are available by SHA appointment made by calling 1-833-SASKVAX (727-5829) only.

What information do patients need in order to book an appointment in the online system?
Patients will be required to have a health card from any province, as well as a cell phone and/or valid email address, while also confirming their eligibility by using their birth date. Identification is also required when the appointment takes place, to ensure we are immunizing the same person that was registered to receive it. Patients will need their health card and immunization card if they've received their first dose.

What if I don't have a health card?
Users without a health card, or those requiring extra assistance are encouraged to use the telephone option to book their appointment.

Where do patients go to access the system and book their online appointment?
The tool can be accessed directly from the Saskatchewan.ca website at Saskatchewan.ca/covid19-vaccine or from saskhealthauthority.ca.

What about patients who don't use or have access to the internet?
Users who aren't comfortable with, or don't have access to technology can book by phone. Family and friends who aren't yet eligible can also book on behalf of someone who is eligible, either online or by phone.

The system is designed to verify a person's eligibility as their appointment is booked. Identification is also required at the time of the actual appointment.

How will I know when new age groups are eligible to book appointments?
Go to Saskatchewan.ca/covid19-vaccine. There is a launch button there to take you directly to the appointment booking. It will also say what age groups are currently eligible for booking appointments. The age groups eligible for booking vaccinations will also be in the daily government COVID news releases and in public service announcements.

How does the booking system protect patient privacy and data?
Protecting patient privacy was a paramount consideration when selecting a vendor for the booking system. The selected vendor meets all Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) security standards, policies and controls. Data is stored securely in Canadian data centres and is subject to Canadian data security laws.

Can I book into a pharmacy or physician's office by using this site?
Not at this time.

Who can I talk to if I have questions about the tool or my appointment?
Anyone with technical issues or other questions are encouraged to call the booking system directly at HealthLine 811.

Can I call the booking office with general inquiries about the vaccine?
No, the booking office is only available for those eligible to book appointments. Staff will not be taking general inquiry calls about the vaccine or any other subject.

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4. Telephone Booking System/Office

Do staff working at the telephone booking office have medical training?
No, booking agents have no medical training. They are trained not to answer any clinical questions. Their function is highly scripted in order to facilitate booking vaccine appointments only. The call centre has a close connection with HealthLine 811 to access their nursing staff and also 911 in the event of an emergency.

What does the hours of operation of the telephone booking office look like?
The booking office will run 8 am to 9 pm, 7 days per week.

Will patients have the ability to book vaccinations 24/7?
The online patient booking system is the fastest way to get your appointment, and is available 24/7. 

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5. Use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine in Specific Age Groups

On March 24, 2021, Health Canada issued guidance on the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine, following European reports of rare but serious cases of blood clots associated with low levels of platelets. Based on NACI's recommendations, Saskatchewan paused AstraZeneca vaccine use in all individuals less than 55 years of age. On April 20, 2021 the government announced Saskatchewan would be using AstraZeneca vaccine to immunize adults 40 years and older (beginning April 28, 2021). AstraZeneca vaccine was integrated into the provincial vaccination roll-out plan, although Saskatchewan stopped administering first-doses of AstraZeneca as of May 6 and as increasing supplies of other vaccines became available.

What exactly has been documented in these cases of blood clots in Europe?

  • The UK and EU have reported rare cases of serious blood clots associated with low blood platelets after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine. To date, the majority have occurred within 4-28 days after vaccination.
  • Cases identified so far have been primarily in women under the age of 55 years.
  • This very rare, adverse event is being referred to as “Vaccine-Induced Immune Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia” (VITT).
  • This adverse event has not been reported following receipt of Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines (mRNA vaccines).

Is VITT treatable?

Yes. The outcome of VITT can be serious, but it can be treated if diagnosed early.

Were any risk factors identified as increasing an individual's risk for VITT?

At this time no other risk factors have consistently been identified in patients who develop VITT.

If you have received the Astra Zeneca vaccine what should you watch for?

There is no cause for concern for anyone who was vaccinated with AstraZeneca more than 28 days ago.
Anyone vaccinated with AstraZeneca less than 28 days ago should monitor for specific symptoms, and seek immediate medical attention in the unlikely event that any arise. Symptoms include:

  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • leg swelling
  • persistent abdominal pain
  • sudden onset of severe or persistent worsening headaches or blurred vision
  • skin bruising (other than at the site of vaccination)
  • seizures

In the rare cases where blood clots have developed, it has been within 28 days of the vaccine. It's important to note that the risk of serious, adverse reactions such as blood clots is extremely low.

If I received my first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, will I get AstraZeneca for my second dose or another COVID-19 vaccine?

AstraZeneca is no longer available in Saskatchewan as of April 30, 2022 as provincial supply was exhausted.

Booster doses do not need to match your previous two dose COVID-19 vaccinations. If you received two doses of AstraZeneca, it is recommended and safe to receive an mRNA vaccine booster immunization.  If you are contraindicated for an mRNA vaccine, speak to your primary care provider about the protein-based vaccines that are available.

AstraZeneca guidance keeps changing. How do I know if this vaccine is safe?

  • Once a vaccine has been reviewed and approved by Health Canada, it is considered safe and effective for use. Canada has a comprehensive vaccine safety monitoring system to alert public health to changing trends or serious, unexpected or unusual adverse events. These alerts trigger expert medical reviews to identify any safety concerns and respond to these quickly and appropriately. This is an essential part of the Government of Canada's ongoing robust vaccine safety monitoring to ensure the continued quality, safety and effectiveness of all vaccines and other health products that are in use in Canada.
  • The benefit of receiving any COVID-19 vaccine outweighs the risks of getting COVID-19 disease.

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