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?

We are now in Phase 4.

Phase 4 | May - July
People aged 59 to 12
Indigenous peoples aged 44 to 12

 Further information and updates are available on the BCCDC website.

What is the timing for the two doses of the vaccine?

The time between first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine has been reduced to eight weeks. 

Do I have to do anything to ensure I get my second dose?

If you registered on the provincial system for your first dose, you will automatically be contacted approximately eight weeks after your first dose to book your appointment for a second dose.
If your first vaccine was AstraZeneca, then you have a choice to either receive a second AstraZeneca dose (You will be contacted to book your second dose appointment approximately eight weeks after your first dose), or register through the provincial site to receive a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

For more information visit the BCCDC website.  

Can I mix vaccines for my first and second dose?

Yes, it is safe and effective to interchange vaccines, either between mRNA vaccines (Pfizer, and Moderna) or interchanging mRNA with viral vector vaccines (AstraZeneca, COVISHELD, or Johnson & Johnson). Although, as with all vaccines, it is preferable to have the same vaccine for both doses.

For those who received a first dose of AstraZeneca, there will be a choice in what comes next::

  • You can receive a second dose of AstraZeneca at least eight weeks after your first dose through your pharmacy. Those who received their first AstraZeneca dose in March/April will soon be contacted by a pharmacy to schedule a second vaccine appointment.
  • Or you can receive either Pfizer or Moderna as your second dose at least eight weeks after your first AstraZeneca shot. This would take place at one of the mass immunization clinics in the province. You can book your appointment online through the Immunization BC platform. Most British Columbians are registered, regardless of which vaccine was initially received. If not, you will need to register before you can book an appointment
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?

Any one over the age of 12 can now register for their first dose via the registration system.

I am 12-17 years old. Do I need a parent/guardian to register me or provide consent to get the vaccine? 

You can go to your appointment by yourself, make plans with friends to get appointments at the same time, or ask a parent or trusted adult to help you. Under the Infants Act, you can give consent as a mature minor to receive health care, such as getting a vaccine.

If I have children, can I book a family vaccination appointment?

Yes. Register all children born in 2009 or earlier (12+) in your household or group who need to get vaccinated. Following registration, you only need to book one appointment.

For example, if you have a 13 year old and a 16 year old needing to be vaccinated, register both. When you get a booking notification for either child, only book one appointment. Take both children to the appointment and both will get vaccinated. 

You can also book separate appointments for each child if that is your preference.

For more details about booking appointments as a family, visit the BC government website.

 

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?
Should women who are pregnant and/or breastfeeding get the vaccine?

The response to this question can be found here.

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), 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 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.

Related: COVID-19 vaccine FAQs for doctors