As Canada starts to roll out COVID-19 vaccines into the community, you may be wondering if you should get vaccinated. You might question why you need the vaccine, but considering how sick you can become if you get infected with COVID-19, getting vaccinated is a good idea. Read more to learn the benefits of getting vaccinated and find out if you are eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Why should I get a COVID-19 vaccine?
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused thousands of hospitalizations and deaths in Canada and worldwide. It has resulted in significant economic and social disruption, and changed daily life as we know it. 1 The availability of the new COVID-19 vaccines will bring all of us one step closer to ending the pandemic and returning to our usual lives. Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 will help to protect both yourself and others from getting sick with COVID-19.
Getting a COVID-19 vaccine will also help build herd immunity. 2 Herd immunity occurs when a population becomes indirectly protected against an infectious disease after most of the population becomes immune (either by vaccination or by previous infection). As more people in the community get vaccinated, less people will be able to spread the COVID-19 virus, which can help indirectly protect those who are unable to get the vaccine as well.
Criteria for getting the COVID-19 vaccine
Currently, there are 2 COVID-19 vaccines that are approved for use in Canada: 3
- Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine: approved for people 16 years of age and older
- Moderna COVID-19 vaccine: approved for people 18 years of age and older
If you are at high risk of getting sick with COVID-19, or are more likely to spread the virus, you will be prioritized to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Those at high risk include: 3,4
- residents and staff of long-term care homes
- adults 70 years of age and older
- health care workers who have direct contact with patients
- adults in Indigenous communities
Health Canada is recommending vaccination for everyone in the approved age groups that do not have contraindications to the vaccine. 3 For people who have previously had COVID-19, vaccination is still recommended since we don’t know how long immunity lasts, and you could get infected again and become sick. 5
Special populations and the vaccine
If you belong to any of the populations listed below, you should not get the COVID-19 vaccine at this time until further evidence is available. 3 However, you may be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine on a case-by-case basis if the benefits of the vaccine are deemed to outweigh the risks after discussing with your health care provider.
- Immunosuppressed (weakened immune system) due to disease or treatment
- Individuals with an autoimmune condition
- Pregnant or breastfeeding
- Adolescents 12 to 15 years of age (only the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine may be given)
If you fall into one of these populations and aren’t sure if you can get a COVID-19 vaccine, talk to your local pharmacist at one of our Shoppers Drug Mart locations.
Children under 12 years of age will have to wait until more research is available before getting vaccinated. 3
Contraindications to the COVID-19 vaccine
Contraindications to the vaccines are special reasons or situations why you should not get the COVID-19 vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccines are contraindicated if you have a history of a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or if you are allergic to any of the vaccine ingredients. 3
A potential ingredient in the vaccines that can cause severe allergic reactions is polyethylene glycol (PEG). PEG can be found in some cough syrups, cosmetics, skin care products, laxatives, and bowel preparation products for colonoscopy. 3,5 If you have a known allergy to PEG, you should not receive the COVID-19 vaccine. 3
If you are unable to get one of the 2 current COVID-19 vaccines, it is possible that you will be eligible in the future once more vaccines become available.
For more information about the COVID-19 vaccines, click here.
- Government of Canada. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): Epidemiology update. https://health-infobase.canada.ca/covid-19/epidemiological-summary-covid-19-cases.html, accessed 6 January 2021.
- World Health Organization. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Herd immunity, lockdowns and COVID-19. https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/herd-immunity-lockdowns-and-covid-19, accessed 6 January 2021.
- Government of Canada. Recommendations on the use of COVID-19 vaccines. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/immunization/national-advisory-committee-on-immunization-naci/recommendations-use-covid-19-vaccines.html, accessed 5 January 2021.
- Government of Canada. Guidance on the prioritization of initial doses of COVID-19 vaccine(s). https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/immunization/national-advisory-committee-on-immunization-naci/guidance-prioritization-initial-doses-covid-19-vaccines.html, accessed 5 January 2021.
- COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions (2021). ImmunizeBC. https://immunizebc.ca/covid-19-vaccine-frequently-asked-questions, accessed 6 January 2021.