COVID-19 Vaccine - Answers for Patients

Answers for patients

With COVID-19 vaccines currently being administered in BC, many of you will have questions about the vaccine – who gets it and when; is it safe; is it effective and more.

We hope that the following information answers some of those questions as BC’s Immunization Plan rolls out across our province.

Detailed Qs and As are available for the public on COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions | Immunize BC

The information on this web page is based on updates from the BCCDC, and the provincial government.

What is the schedule for the general public to get vaccinated in the next few months?

Phases 3 and 4 will take place from April until June. The first dose of the vaccines will be administered by age in five-year increments. Dates are subject to change depending on supply.

Phase 3 | April - May

  • People aged 79 to 60
  • Indigenous (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) peoples aged 64 to 18
  • People aged 74 to 16 who are clinically extremely vulnerable (March/April)
  • Front-line workers (identified and contacted by their employers)
  • Pregnant people 16+

Phase 4 | May - June

  • People aged 59 to 18
  • Indigenous peoples age 44 to 18

 Further information and updates are available on the BCCDC website.

I am pregnant, how do I get my vaccine?
  • All pregnant people who are age 16+ are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccines as a priority population through B.C.’s Immunization Plan. There is no need to wait until your age group is being vaccinated.
  • To book an appointment, call 1-833- 838-2323. You do not need a note from your doctor.
  • Please also register at gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated (if you haven’t already), to ensure you get a call back for your second dose.
  • Getting the COVID-19 vaccine if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeed, is a safe and effective way to protect against COVID-19. Pregnant women and pregnant individuals who have COVID-19 appear more likely to develop severe complications requiring intensive care admission than women and individuals who are not pregnant.
  • The recommendation to get vaccinated during pregnancy is supported by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC), the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) and public health experts in B.C.
  • For more information visit the BCCDC website.  
Who can get the AstraZeneca vaccine in BC and where can I get it?
  • Currently, people between the ages of 40 – 65 can make an appointment at their local pharmacy for the Astrazeneca vaccine.
  • The province has set up AstraZeneca vaccine clinics in 13 high-risk communities that have experienced high rates of COVID-19 transmission over the past 14 days. You can check if you live in a high-risk community and are eligible to get your vaccine in one of the clinics here.
What will be the process for the general public to register to get vaccinated?

There are three ways you can register to get the vaccine.

Register online (Personal Health Number required)

Register by phone (Personal Health Number not required)

  • Call: 1-833-838-2323 | Translators are available
  • Seven days a week, 7 am to 7 pm (PDT)
  • Please only call when you are also eligible to book an appointment.

Register at a Service BC office (Personal Health Number not required)

  • You can register in-person at all Service BC offices. 
  • Office hours vary by location. Check before you go. 
  • Please only register at a Service BC office when you are also eligible to book an appointment.
  • Find a Service BC office close to me
What happens after I register? What is the process to get my vaccine?

Step 1: You’ve registered (online, by phone or in person), and specified how you would like to be contacted to book your vaccine appointment.

Step 2: You will be contacted to book your appointment.

  • When you are contacted to book a vaccine appointment, you will be asked to:
    • Complete a pre-screening
    • Select a location, date and time
    • You will be able to make your appointment online or by phone, using the Get Vaccinated system. 

Step 3: Appointment day

  • At the immunization clinic you will:
    • Complete a check-in process
    • Get your vaccine dose
    • Wait in an observation area for about 15 minutes

Getting the second dose

  • People who get their first vaccine dose will be notified by email, text or phone call when they are eligible to book an appointment for their second dose.
How will I be notified it’s time for me to register?

Watch media reports and your health authorities’ web sites for updates on which week your age group is directed to book.

What if I missed the date I’m supposed to call to book my appointment?
  • If you have missed the age-based date to book your appointment, you or a friend/family member can call at any time to book your appointment to be vaccinated.
  • Numbers to call, and information you will need when you call can be found at the BC government site for seniors: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/covid-19/vaccine/seniors
  • More answers to your questions on timing and vaccine delivery for all British Columbian’s can be found at the Immunize BC website.
What is the process to get vaccinated if I am ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ to COVID-19?
  • People aged 16 to 74 who are ‘clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV)’ will be able to get their vaccinations earlier than their age group. This ensures that those most at risk from COVID-19 are protected sooner.
  • All eligible patients will be sent a ‘Patient Invitation Letter’ by April 15.
  • Once you have received your letter you can book a vaccine appointment for yourself, or have a family member or friend call for you (details of how to register online or by phone will be available shortly).
  • If you are unsure whether you meet the CEV criteria, please visit www.gov.bc.ca/cevCOVID.
  • Please note that the criteria for the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ is very specific and cannot be changed.
  • Most people with common conditions such as diabetes (unless on insulin) and asthma are *not* considered CEV and will be vaccinated shortly as part of their age group.
  • Our vaccine program is ahead of schedule and all British Columbians are now expected to receive the first dose of their vaccine by the end of June.
  • If you meet the criteria, but have not received your letter by April 15, your first step is to call the vaccine booking system to see if you’re on the list.
  • Please do not contact your doctor before April 15. It is important that phone lines remain open for those requiring immediate medical care.
How do I know if I’m ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ and eligible for the vaccine?

To check if you’re on the list of CEV visit Vaccines for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable - Province of British Columbia 

I have checked my eligibility and I am ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ but have not received a letter. What should I do?
  • Your first step If you have not received a letter by April 15, is to call the vaccine booking system to see if you’re on the list.
  • If you are not on the list, please call your doctor or specialist’s office and they can to confirm your eligibility with the provincial government. 
  • Please do not contact your doctor before April 15. It is important that phone lines remain open for those requiring immediate medical care.
  • For more information on this process, or If you are unsure whether you meet the criteria for a ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ person, please visit: Vaccines for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable - Province of British Columbia 
Why is the delivery of vaccines based on age?  
  • The data referenced by the Provincial Health Officer indicates that the older the person, the greater the risk for severe illness, hospitalization, or death due to COVID-19.
  • Older people are also more likely to have chronic health conditions, which increases their risk even further. 
Why will it take so long for everyone to get vaccinated?
  • Vaccination delivery is a complex undertaking.
  • Limited supplies, vaccine storage (sub-zero temperatures), and the two-dose regimen, all need to be considered when planning the roll-out of the vaccine across the province.
  • In the meantime, we ask that British Columbians remain patient, and continue to take measures to reduce the spread of the virus as they wait their turn for the vaccine.
Who should seek further advice before getting the vaccine?

It is recommended that the following people consult with their health care provider to discuss if the benefits are greater than the possible risks from the COVID-19 vaccine. People who:

  • Have an immune system weakened by disease or medical treatment
  • Have an autoimmune disease
  • Are pregnant, may be pregnant or are planning to become pregnant
  • Are breastfeeding
  • Have had a severe allergic reaction to the first dose of the vaccine or any of the ingredients in the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccine.

Recommendations may change as more evidence on safety and/or effectiveness in these populations becomes available.

Are the vaccines safe?
  • COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada have followed the same extensive testing as every other vaccine. No steps were skipped.
  • Faster funding and worldwide collaboration have meant the vaccines were able to be developed much more quickly.  
  • The clinical trials and safety reviews actually took about the same amount of time as other vaccines. 
  • It should be recognized that risks of the virus are significant, and far outweigh the possibility of serious side effects from the vaccination.
  • For more information, check out our article COVID-19 vaccines:are they safe?

 

Is the AstraZeneca vaccine safe? Why are there restrictions on who can get it?
  • All vaccines approved in Canada are safe and highly effective.
  • Use of the Astrazeneca vaccine has recently been limited as reports of blood clots – an extremely rare side effect – are examined. 
  • However, we know that the risk of having a severe reaction such as a blood clot from the AstraZeneca vaccine is very rare (one out of 100,000 – 250,000), and that risks from the virus – short and long term - far outweigh those from the vaccine. 
  • It is strongly recommended that all British Columbians take the first vaccine they are eligible for, especially with current rates of infection being so high.
How successful are the vaccines in protecting people from the virus?

The COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada, requiring either one or two doses, provide excellent protection against the COVID-19 virus, preventing up to 95% of infections and serious illness.

What is the timing for the two doses of the vaccine?
  • The Provincial Health Officer has announced that BC is extending the time between first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine to four months. 
  • This is in light of good news from local and international data showing up to 90% protection three weeks after receiving the first dose of the two-dose vaccines, lasting for many months.
  • The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI)'s recommendation aligns with B.C.'s decision, which frees up 70,000 doses for younger age groups.
  • This means everyone can move up the list, with all British Columbian’s expected to receive their first dose of the two-dose vaccines by the end of June.
Do I need to connect with someone to arrange for my second dose?

No. Your health authority has a record of your immunization date, and will be in touch with you to advise you of time, date, and location for your second dose. At this time, you can expect to receive your second dose about four months from your initial vaccination.

What side-effects can I expect after the vaccine?
  • Common reactions to the vaccine may include soreness, redness and swelling where the vaccine was given. Other reactions include tiredness, headache, fever, chills, muscle or joint soreness, and nausea. These reactions are mild and generally last one to two days.
  • These common reactions are not an allergic reaction, but signs that your body’s immune system is responding – in a good way – to the vaccine.
  • If you have concerns about any symptoms you develop after receiving the vaccine speak with your health care provider or call 8-1-1 for advice.
Should women who are pregnant and breastfeeding get the vaccine?

The response to this question can be found here

Related: COVID-19 vaccine FAQs for doctors