Over the past year, millions of people around the world have been vaccinated against COVID-19, including over 27 million Canadians. This means we now have a large body of evidence showing that the vaccines are safe and effective, in particular at preventing hospitalization and death from COVID-19.
It’s true that like all vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccines are not 100% effective and so there is still a chance you could get infected. However, the vaccines greatly reduce your risk of catching the virus. And, if you do still catch COVID-19, your risk of serious harm – including hospitalization and death – is significantly lower. Data from the BCCDC shows that unvaccinated people are up to 34 times more likely to be hospitalized by COVID-19 (after adjusting for age differences).
Indeed, during the summer of 2021, the vast majority of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in British Columbia were not fully vaccinated – even though unvaccinated people make up a much smaller proportion of the population.
There have been a some rare instances of serious side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines, such as blood clots or myocarditis. However, the risks associated with catching COVID-19 are far greater and more life-threatening than any side-effect of the vaccines. For almost everyone, getting vaccinated is the lowest-risk option. Watch UBC’s Dr. Sadarangani discuss this in our ‘Ask Me Anything’ Q&A.
Getting vaccinated also protects those around you. The lower your risk of infection, the lower the chance that you pass the virus on to others. More people being vaccinated means it is harder for COVID-19 to move between people, and this reduces transmission in the community. We can see this in the data, as regions of the province with lower vaccination rates often have the highest case rates. Vaccination is not just about protecting the individual; it is a community effort to beat COVID-19 and end the pandemic.
Finally, in British Columbia, people must now be fully vaccinated in order to access non-essential services and to work in certain industries, including long-term care and other healthcare settings. As of October 12, nobody can work in long-term care or assisted living who has not received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine. We expect this will also soon apply to other healthcare workers in the province, including some home and community care workers.
If you have concerns about these options, you may also wish to speak to your employer. They may be able to reach out to the relevant health authority to work out the best and easiest way for you to get vaccinated.
Four vaccines for COVID-19 have been approved by Health Canada and are being distributed across the country. These are:
- Pfizer / BioNTech
- Oxford University / AstraZeneca
- Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
The vaccines all work a little differently. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines. They work by delivering the instructions from the virus that causes COVID-19 to our own cells. This makes the body produce a small part of the virus’ outer shape – the spike protein of the virus – which then stimulates our body’s immune response and teaches it to recognize the virus should the actual virus enter your system.
The AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines are viral vector vaccines. They use a harmless virus (such as an adenovirus, the virus which can cause the common cold) as a “delivery system” for the COVID-19 spike protein, which will stimulate your body’s immune response. This vector virus is not the same virus that causes COVID-19.
Importantly, none of the four vaccines involve injecting people directly with the COVID-19 virus.
Information and Resources
Where to Find More Information
Provided by Health Canada, this infographic gives an overview of the process vaccines go through to ensure they are effective and safe.
The Government of Canada’s webpage on the vaccine. Contains information on which vaccines are approved and how they work.
Immunize BC answers a range of questions about side effects and allergies.
Vaccine information from the BC Centre of Disease Control.
University of British Columbia’s Dr. Manish Sadarangani answers your questions about the vaccine. Webinar originally aired on September 10, 2021.
A detailed questions and answers page provided by HealthLink BC. Available in multiple languages.
This WorkSafeBC page includes information about the role that vaccination can play in workplace health and safety, along with information about submitting a claim for an adverse reaction to a work-related COVID-19 vaccination.
Resources for Managers
SafeCare BC has developed a Q&A to help you answer some of the most common questions your staff may have.
A SafeCare BC resource to help managers to have conversations about vaccination with staff in a respectful way.
Some of the most common questions about the COVID-19 vaccine are answered on this poster.
A flyer created during a SciBeh 2020 Virtual Workshop. Information on how you can deal with COVID misinformation.