Vaccine Information for Parents and Caregivers
By: Raumil Patel, Connie Liu, and Jenny Cho, University of Toronto MD Class of 2023.
Approved vaccines in Canada
All vaccines serve the purpose of reducing your chance of getting sick with COVID-19. In Canada, there are currently four vaccines that are approved for use. These include:
Moderna COVID-19 vaccine
Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine
Janssen COVID-19 vaccine
How the vaccine is given
All four vaccines are given through an injection in the muscle of the arm. However, there are differences in how many doses you need for each vaccine.
The vaccines will only start protecting you 2 weeks after the first dose. For the greatest protection, you will need to get the recommended number of doses.
Possible side effects
The side effects of COVID-19 vaccines are similar to what you would get with other vaccines. This might include pain at the site of injection, body chills, feeling tired and feeling feverish. All of these are common side effects and do not pose a risk to your health.
Very rarely, there may be a serious side effect like an allergic reaction. Speak with your doctor if you have concerns about allergies or any other health condition before receiving the vaccine.
Differences between the vaccines
Please see the Q&A section below for the differences between mRNA and viral vector-based vaccines.
Health officials advise you to take the first vaccine that is available to you. Although there are differences in the reported efficacy rates between vaccines, it is important to remember that any vaccine will protect you better than not getting a vaccine at all.
Furthermore, the efficacy rate refers to the vaccine's ability to protect you from getting symptoms of COVID-19. This is not the most important goal. Instead, the goal of the vaccine is to prevent serious illness, hospitalizations, and death. All four vaccines will do this very effectively.
There are currently no vaccines available for children. However, getting vaccinated yourself is the first step to protecting your children.
Image: An individual holding a vaccine.
Vaccination schedule for Ontario
Ontario currently has a 3-step plan to prioritize vaccinating to those at a greater risk of being extremely sick, and those who care for them. It is important to note that the vaccination schedule is changing every day, and although this is the most up-to-date information at the moment, it is possible that this could change later. Also, this list is not full and complete. Therefore, you should continuously check for any updated information by visiting the Government of Ontario Vaccination Schedule webpage.
Phase 1 (High-risk Populations):
Phase 1 is the current phase that we are in, which will likely last until March 2021. Priority is given to health care workers (ie doctors and nurses), seniors living in retirement homes, adults in First Nations, Métis and Inuit populations, and people over 80 years of age.
Phase 2 (Mass Delivery):
Phase 2 is the next step with the mass delivery of vaccines, expected to last from April to July 2021. Compared to phase 1, there will be a greater number of people that would be vaccinated, including people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, along with primary caregivers for them. In addition, adults between 60 and 79 years old age can be vaccinated. As the vaccine continuously rolls out, it will be available for adults, decreasing in five-year periods. This means that, for example, people 75-79 years of age will be vaccinated first, followed by people 70-74 years old, and so on. People living in emergency homeless shelters, children’s residential homes, and homes for special care can all be vaccinated during this time as well.
Phase 3 (Steady-state):
Phase 3 is the final step in the vaccination plan, starting in July 2021. This will be for the rest of the remaining people, including adults who are 16 years and older, who wish to be vaccinated.
Where can I go to get the vaccine?
Typically, vaccines will be available in mass vaccination clinics, pharmacies, family doctor clinics, mobile teams, and public health units. However, this can be different depending on the city you live in. Find your public health unit and check their website for details about vaccination in your area.
If I already had COVID-19, should I still get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Experts recommend that you get the COVID-19 vaccine even if you already had COVID-19. This is because we do not know how long the protection from a natural infection lasts. There have also been cases of people getting re-infected with the coronavirus. Experts also say that the vaccine provides stronger immunity than a natural infection. That is why you should get the vaccine even if you already had COVID-19.
Once I get the COVID-19 vaccine can I stop wearing a mask?
Even if you receive the vaccine you should still follow public health guidelines. This includes wearing a mask, following hand hygiene and staying 6 feet apart. The purpose of the COVID-19 vaccine is to make sure you do not get sick if you catch the virus. If a vaccinated individual gets the virus they are likely to not show any symptoms. Right now, we are unsure if vaccines can stop the spread of the virus from infected individuals. A person who has received the vaccine may still spread the virus if they are infected. That is why it is important to continue following public health guidelines. To learn more about public health guidelines and staying safe, please visit: https://www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-stop-spread
Can the COVID-19 vaccine be safe if it was developed so quickly?
The COVID-19 vaccines are both safe and effective. It is a marvellous feat that they were created in just 1-year. But this does not mean they are unsafe. No steps were skipped in the development of these vaccines. Some of the reasons the vaccine were developed so quickly include:
Researchers did not have to start from the beginning when it comes to the coronavirus. Scientists used information they learned from SARS in 2002 and MERS in 2012
This was a worldwide effort. Scientists from around the world shared data with each other. This helped the scientific community quickly uncover the genetic programming of SARS-COV-2
Governments and private organizations provide large amounts of money to vaccine research. This helped run large clinical trials and produce the vaccine quickly
To learn more about COVID-19 and vaccines please visit the websites below: