Do you have safety concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine? That’s understandable. It’s normal for us to doubt something that is new or unfamiliar, especially when it’s expected to have a considerable impact on our health. And if you’ve come across information that cast doubt on the efficacy or even the purpose of the vaccine (usually on social media), it can make you more anxious.
To help ease your fears, we looked for answers to five of the most common questions about the COVID vaccines (Information sourced from Manitoba.gov, Health Canada, Immunize Canada, and the World Health Organization. Please see citations at the end of the article):
It looks like these vaccines were made very quickly. Don’t vaccines take years to develop?
Two things slow down the development vaccines: Money and regulatory approval. In the case of COVID vaccines, governments and the pharmaceutical industry fully backed their development with funding and needed resources which greatly speeded up their creation and approval.
Other factors that hastened their creation was the availability of data and advances in science and technology. Researchers were able to build on years of existing vaccine data as well as conduct various phases of clinical trials in significant populations affected by the virus. The international collaboration among scientists, health professionals, researchers, industry, and governments made all of this possible.
Are Coronavirus vaccines safe?
Yes, they are safe.
All vaccines go through Health Canada’s rigorous review and testing before they are approved and used. The new COVID-19 vaccines are no different. Each vaccine went through this tough process before approval. All succeeding vaccines from other manufacturers will go through the same process to ensure public health and safety.
The first approved vaccine is from Pfizer/BioNtech. It has been approved for use for people aged 16 years old and older. The second to receive approval is Moderna’s vaccine. It is expected to boost the current mass immunization effort. Even before they applied for distribution in Canada, the vaccines have shown a high effectiveness of over 90% in clinical trials consisting of thousands of participants, and with limited negative effects. Nevertheless, the Canadian vaccine safety system will conduct continuous monitoring for possible adverse events after the vaccine is licensed.
Update: The AstraZenica Vaccine has been approved in Canada. Here’s what you need to know about Manitoba’s AstraZeneca vaccine rollout (March 10, 2021).
How do vaccines work? Kelwalin Dhanasarnsombut, TED-Ed – Immunize Canada
What will I feel after I get vaccinated? Will there be side-effects?
These vaccines were first administered in the UK and now in the US and Canada. Some of those who have already been given the vaccine felt short-term side effects, while others did not. Reported side-effects ranged from soreness or mild swelling where the shot was administered to a feeling of tiredness. Others experienced flu-like symptoms like mild fever, headaches or chills. The symptoms tend to go away after a day or two. Those who experience a reaction on the area where they’ve had the injection are directed to use a cool, wet cloth to reduce redness, soreness and swelling.
Serious side-effects, like a severe allergic reaction, are very rare. Doctors and nurses are trained to deal with them if such cases happen. If you have a history of allergic reactions to medication or if you have a condition that makes you susceptible, consult your family doctor or health care professional before getting the vaccine.
Can I choose not to be vaccinated? What will happen if I don’t get it?
No one can be forced to take the vaccine. It is a personal choice. However, choosing not to be vaccinated may have grave consequences for you and others you come in contact with. Remember that vaccination does not only protect you but your family and community as well. Think of this: If not enough people are immunized in the population, COVID-19 will stay in the long term.
When and where will I get it?
Vaccinations have already begun for priority groups in Manitoba but supply is limited. About 900 healthcare professionals who are providing care for high-risk patients in immunization clinics and critical, acute and long-term care facilities have received the vaccine.
Manitoba has been told that it will receive 228,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines by March 31, 2021. This covers around seven per cent of Manitoba’s population. As more vaccines are delivered in succeeding months, it is expected that every Manitoban who wishes to be immunized can get it. The Government of Canada is aiming for all Canadians to be vaccinated by the end of 2021. You can get regular updates about the vaccine rollout from: COVID-19 Vaccine and COVID-19 Vaccine Current Eligibility Criteria for immunization.
Do you want to help in the immunization campaign? Consider working at an immunization clinic. Positions are available for people with a range of skills and experience. Check this opportunity from this link: Work at an immunization clinic.
Don’t let your guard down
The administration of the vaccine is a big step towards our fight against COVID-19 but we are not out of the woods yet. All Manitobans are urged to continue following public health directives to keep COVID-19 cases down. Do your part and limit travel and gatherings, continue to wash your hands often and social distance, wear a mask when appropriate, stay home when sick, and get your information only from trusted and credible sources.
If you have other questions about the vaccines and how they are administered, read: COVID-19 Vaccine Questions and Answers or consult your family doctor/health care provider.
For more on the nationwide effort, download: What you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine for Canada. Information is available in 22 languages from the Government of Canada site.
Article updated March 18,2021.
Sources: COVID-19 Vaccines Information for Manitobans, Manitoba.gov; Vaccine safety, Manitoba Health; How are vaccines developed? World Health Organization; The top 7 COVID-19 vaccine questions, answered, Emily Oster, PhD, Ideas.TED.com; and What happens if someone refuses a vaccination? Ethicists urge clarity on COVID-19 rollout, Avis Favaro, CTV News. Accessed December 17, 2020.
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