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
Last Reviewed

29 Dec 2022

Last Updated

02 Jun 2021

COVID-19 vaccination is not recommended or approved in people under 6 months of age.

Monovalent (original) Vaccines
  • Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty®* is approved for use in people 6 months of age and older
  • Moderna Spikevax™* is approved for use in people 6 months of age and older
  • Janssen Jcovden™  is approved for use in people 18 years of age and older
  • Novavax Nuvaxovid™ is approved for use in people 12 years of age and older
Bivalent Vaccines 
  • Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty® Original & Omicron BA.4/BA.5* is approved for use in people 5 years of age and older
  • Moderna Spikevax™ Bivalent is approved for use in people 18 years of age and older
    • In Saskatchewan, this vaccine can be used in people 12 years and older who are moderately to severely immunocompromised. Use in those under 18 years of age is considered off-label.

* There are different formulations and doses for different age groups. The differences in the formulations are slight. The main ingredients that your body uses to protect against COVID-19 infection are the same.

For details about the different vaccines available in Saskatchewan, see COVID-19 Vaccine Information from the Government of Saskatchewan.

References
Last Updated

17 Jan 2023

  • Reported allergy to one of the vaccine 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), tromethamine, polysorbate 80, or other vaccine ingredients to find out if these vaccines are safe for you.
    • See Health Canada COVID-19: Vaccine safety and side effects
  • 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.
  • Immunocompromised/Autoimmune Conditions 
    • 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.  
      • COVID-19 vaccination with mRNA vaccine is recommended for those who are immunocompromised.
        • If mRNA vaccine is not available or desired, Novavax Nuvaxovid™ (a vaccine that works slightly differently) may be used. However, there is not yet a lot of information about use of this vaccine in those who are immunocompromised.
        • If all other COVID-19 vaccines are contraindicated (cannot be used for reasons such as serious allergy to an ingredient), Janssen Jcovden™ may be used.
      • 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.
      • COVID-19 vaccination with mRNA vaccine is recommended for those with autoimmune conditions.
        • If mRNA vaccine is not available or desired, Novavax Nuvaxovid™ (a vaccine that works slightly differently) may be used. However, there is not yet a lot of information about use of this vaccine in those with autoimmune conditions.
        • If all other COVID-19 vaccines are contraindicated (cannot be used for reasons such as serious allergy to an ingredient), Janssen Jcovden™ may be used.
      • 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.

  • History of Myocarditis or Pericarditis
    • Myocarditis and pericarditis are conditions that cause inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) or the lining around the outside of the heart (pericarditis).
    • These conditions have been reported after the primary series of mRNA COVID-19 vaccination, It has been more common:
      • in males
      • in those between the ages of 12 and 29
      • following the 2nd dose of the primary series, especially if there were fewer than 8 weeks between the doses.
    • These conditions have not been reported following use of bivalent vaccines.

    • History of myocarditis or pericarditis FOLLOWING mRNA COVID-19 vaccination
      • As a precautionary measure, further doses of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine should be deferred in most people who developed myocarditis (with or without pericarditis) within 6 weeks of receiving a previous dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. This includes anyone who had certain abnormal heart test(s) after a dose of mRNA vaccine.
      • Those with a history of pericarditis following a dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine and who either had no heart tests or the heart tests were normal can be revaccinated once they are symptom free and at least 90 days has passed since previous COVID-19 vaccine dose.
      • Among those with confirmed myocarditis(with or without pericarditis) following a dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine:
        • Administration of another dose(s) of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine may be considered in certain circumstances after talking to the specialist.  

    • History of myocarditis or pericarditis UNRELATED to mRNA COVID-19 vaccination
      • This is not a contraindication to being immunized with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.
References
Last Updated 

29 Dec 2022

Pregnancy
  • 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 and receiving COVID-19 vaccine (including non-mRNA) is not a reason to end a pregnancy.
  • mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty® and Moderna Spikevax™) are the preferred vaccines in pregnant people
    • Recombinant protein subunit COVID-19 vaccine (i.e. Novavax Nuvaxovid™) may be used if someone is not willing or able to receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
      • However, safety and efficacy data of this vaccine in pregnant people are not available.
    • Viral vector vaccines (i.e. Janssen Jcovden™) may be used if all other vaccines cannot be used.
    • The original COVID-19 vaccine studies did not include pregnant people. 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.
Breastfeeding
  • COVID-19 vaccines have been found to be safe in breastfeeding and breastfeeding is not a reason to avoid COVID-19 vaccination.
  • mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty® and Moderna Spikevax™) are the preferred vaccines in breastfeeding people
    • Recombinant protein subunit COVID-19 vaccine (i.e. Novavax Nuvaxovid™) may be used if someone is not willing or able to receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
    • Viral vector vaccines (i.e. Janssen Jcovden™) may be used if all other vaccines cannot be used.
    • In people who are breastfeeding and receive the COVID-19 vaccine, there have been no reports of:
      • side effects or harms in breastfeeding babies
      • effect on the quality or amount of milk produced
References
Last Updated

17 Jan 2023

  • 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 Novavax Nuvaxovid™ or Janssen Jcovden™ vaccines 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
Last Updated

29 Dec 2022

  • Viral vector vaccines (Janssen Jcovden™) 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.
    • People 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 Janssen Jcovden™:
    • 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
Last Updated

29 Dec 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 never enters the nucleus, which is where DNA is housed.

Reference
Last Reviewed

29 Dec 2022

  • It is recommended to receive the same mRNA vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty® or Moderna Spikevax™) for all doses within a primary series.
    • 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), Novavax Nuvaxovid™ or Janssen Jcovden™ can be used. These vaccines are only available through Public Health.
  • For subsequent booster doses, bivalent mRNA vaccines (either brand) are preferred.
References 
Last Updated

29 Dec 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.
  • As long as the minimum interval between doses has been met, the dose will still be valid  and you will not need to repeat any doses. 
Reference 
Last Reviewed

29 Dec 2022

Last Updated

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.  
Reference
Last Reviewed

29 Dec 2022

Last Updated

19 Mar 2021