Approval for the vaccines is following the usual processes to ensure safety and efficacy. There are several reasons the process was able to be quicker for the COVID-19 vaccines:

  • more resources were made available
  • resources / work were shifted from other projects to focus on the vaccine
  • global agencies have been working together and sharing data
  • we have better science and technology
  • studies took place in areas with high risk of COVID-19 infection so it didn't take long to get results

Health Canada ensured the vaccines were safe and effective before authorizing them. 

Reference:

02 Jun 2021

  • Viral vector vaccines (AstraZeneca Vaxzevria™ and Janssen [Johnson & Johnson]) have been associated with rare cases of unusual blood clots that happen at the same time as a drop in blood platelets (components that help blood to clot).
    • This rare side effect is one of the reasons mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty™, Moderna Spikevax™) are preferred to viral vector vaccines.
    • Individuals who cannot receive mRNA vaccines can receive a viral vector vaccine.
      • The benefits of the vaccine in combating the still widespread threat of COVID-19 (which itself results in clotting problems and may be fatal) continue to outweigh the risk of side effects.
  • Seek prompt medical assistance and mention your recent vaccination if you get any of the following after receiving AstraZeneca Vaxzevria™ or Janssen (Johnson & Johnson):
    • breathlessness,
    • pain in the chest or stomach,
    • swelling or coldness in an arm or leg,
    • severe or worsening headache or blurred vision after vaccination,
    • confusion or seizures,
    • multiple small bruises, reddish or purplish spots, or blood blisters under the skin

References

08 Mar 2022

No. The Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty™ and Moderna Spikevax™ vaccines use mRNA technology - the mRNA gives instructions to the cell to produce the spike protein, like what is found on the coronavirus, to produce an immune response. mRNA only enters the cytosol of the cell and never enters the nucleus, which is where DNA is housed.

Reference:

19 Mar 2021

  • Age
    • Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty™ is approved for use in persons 5 years of age and older
      • Note that there are different vaccines for those 5 to 11 years and those who are 12 years and older. There are slight differences in the formulations, but the main ingredients that your body uses to protect against COVID-19 infection are the same. 
    • Moderna Spikevax™ is approved for use in persons 12 years of age and older
    • AstraZeneca Vaxzevria™ is approved for use in persons 18 years of age and older
    • Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) is approved for use in persons 18 years of age and older

  • Reported allergy to one of the ingredients
    • Those with food or environmental allergies can receive the vaccines.
    • Talk to your vaccine provider if you have had serious allergic reactions to polyethylene glycol (PEG) or other vaccine ingredients to find out if these vaccines are safe for you.
    • See the Health Canada recommendations for people with serious allergies
  • Currently feeling unwell with symptoms that could be COVID-19
    • to prevent spreading to others who are at the vaccine clinic/site
    • to prevent confusion if symptoms come up after the vaccination
      • we wouldn't know for sure if the symptoms were side effects of the vaccine or because of the COVID-19 infection  

  • Serious adverse or allergic reaction to previous dose of COVID-19 vaccine unless an allergist or other healthcare provider has said it's safe.
    • For those who had an anaphylactic reaction (=severe allergic reaction that may include shortness of breath, swelling of throat/lips/tongue, hives, and other symptoms) to an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty™ or Moderna Spikevax™):
      • Some people may still be able to get another mRNA vaccine dose but will need to speak to a health care provider who specializes in allergy (e.g. allergist).
      • If it’s decided another dose can be given, the person will likely need to get it in a clinic or hospital setting.
  • Pregnancy - mRNA vaccines preferred
    • Pregnancy increases the risk of more severe symptoms and need to be hospitalized for COVID-19. There is also a higher risk of premature birth, stillbirth and need for caesarean delivery in pregnant people who get COVID-19 compared to pregnant people who don’t.
      • Vaccination is important to reduce these risks.
    • Pregnancy is not a reason to avoid COVID-19 vaccination.
      • Receiving COVID-19 vaccine (including AstraZeneca Vaxzevria™ or Janssen [Johnson & Johnson]) is not a reason to end a pregnancy.

    • mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty™ and Moderna Spikevax™) are the preferred vaccines in pregnant individuals
      • Viral vector vaccines (i.e. AstraZeneca Vaxzevria™ or Janssen [Johnson & Johnson]) may be used if: 
        • mRNA vaccines can’t be used (e.g. because of allergy to an ingredient), or  
        • mRNA vaccine is not readily available
      • The reasons for this recommendation:
        • We have more information about the safety of COVID-19 vaccination in pregnancy from mRNA vaccines.
        • Viral vector vaccines have been related to rare cases of unusual blood clots that happen at the same time as a drop in blood platelets (components that help blood to clot). If this happens in a pregnant person, the testing and treatments become more complicated. 
      • Anyone who got AstraZeneca Vaxzevria™ for the first dose can receive Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty™ or Moderna Spikevax™ for the second dose. 

    • People who were pregnant were not included in the original studies. However, we now have data from the widespread use around the world. There hasn't been anything to suggest COVID-19 vaccines cause harm to the fetus or the mother. The information also shows that the vaccines work just as well in pregnant people as those who are non-pregnant.
      • Most of this information has come from use of mRNA vaccines.
  • Immunocompromised/Autoimmune Conditions/Breastfeeding
    • Some groups of people had not been included in original studies meaning we didn’t know if the vaccines would work and be safe in these groups. Because of this, when vaccination first started, it was recommended the risks of not knowing these data be weighed against the benefits from vaccination by taking into account factors like level of COVID-19 exposure and health problems that may lead to more severe symptoms if the person became infected with COVID-19.
    • Now that we have more information from the widespread use of these vaccines, we have some information in these groups.
    • The information we have includes the number and severity of side effects from the vaccines (i.e. safety) and the immune response based on blood levels of antibodies (one way to give an idea how well it works). What we don’t have is just how much these vaccines reduce the severity of symptoms and complications from COVID-19 infection.
    • Based on this new information, it is now recommended that everyone in these groups be vaccinated just like those without these conditions.   
       
    • Immunocompromised
      • Someone might be immunocompromised because of medications, because of a medical condition or both.
      • People who are immunocompromised are more likely to catch COVID-19 and may have worse symptoms compared to people who are not immunocompromised.  
      • Information has shown the vaccines work in those who are immunocompromised but not as well as in those who are not immunocompromised. This is the case with most vaccines.
      • Side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines seem to be about the same in people who are immunocompromised compared to those who are not.
      • People who are moderately to severely immunocompromised should:
        • talk to their doctor or nurse practitioner before getting a COVID-19 vaccine dose (there may be a time related to medication or the condition that is better for vaccination)
        • receive 3 doses (instead of 2) of an mRNA vaccine as well as booster doses
        • continue to do the other things that we know help lessen the chances of getting COVID-19 infection, even if all doses have been received, such as wearing masks, keeping hands sanitized, and physical distancing

    • Autoimmune Conditions
      • There are many autoimmune conditions. Some examples include Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Diabetes Type 1, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, and Psoriasis.
      • People with autoimmune conditions may be taking medications that dampen the immune system (= immunosuppressants). See “Immunocompromised” above.
        • The vaccines work as well in people with autoimmune conditions compared to those without autoimmune conditions, if they are not taking immunosuppressant medications.
      • Side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines seem to be about the same in people who have autoimmune conditions compared to those who do not.

    • Breastfeeding
      • Early studies consistently show that antibodies are found in breastmilk after maternal vaccination with mRNA vaccines.
      • In one small study, parts of the vaccine were not found in breastmilk 4-48 hours after the dose was taken.
      • There haven’t been any reports of side effects or harms in breastfeeding babies whose mothers had the COVID-19 vaccine.

References

08 Mar 2022

  • It is important to receive all the vaccine doses recommended by your vaccine provider to make sure you have the best possible protection.
  • mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty™ or Moderna Spikevax) are preferred for everyone but if you can’t have an mRNA vaccine, a viral vector vaccine (AstraZeneca Vaxzevria™, Janssen [Johnson & Johnson]) can be used.
  • The number of doses needed depends on the type of vaccine. It also depends if medications you take or medical conditions you have dampen your immune system.
  • Your vaccine provider will tell you how many doses you need and how long to wait between doses. 

Reference

08 Mar 2022

  • It is recommended to receive the same mRNA vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty™ or Moderna Spikevax™) for all doses.
    • When the same mRNA COVID-19 vaccine brand is not readily available, or is unknown, another mRNA COVID-19 vaccine can be used.  
  • If someone cannot receive an mRNA vaccine (because of allergy, for example), viral vector vaccines (AstraZeneca Vaxzevria™ or Janssen [Johnon & Johnson]) can be used. These vaccines are only available through Public Health.

References: 

08 Mar 2022

  • If you have not received your dose when it is due, book an appointment for it as soon as possible to make sure you have full protection. However, your dose will count and you will not need to repeat any doses. 

References: 

19 Mar 2021

No, the vaccine does not contain live virus; instead it provides the information your body needs to make antibodies/immune protection against the virus. As such, you cannot get COVID-19 infection from the vaccine.

If you were infected with the virus at the time of vaccination (e.g. you didn't have symptoms and didn't know you were infected), the vaccine will not keep you from passing COVID-19 to others. 

Following vaccination, continue to follow Public Health recommendations regarding hand hygiene, physical distancing, masks, etc.  

 

19 Mar 2021