A group of Castlegar physicians feels it would be helpful to address some common questions that they have been hearing from their patients.
“While we know that these vaccines are very effective, we also know that many of our patients feel a bit nervous about the vaccines being new and have questions about safety, side effects, how the vaccines work and if they have a reason why they shouldn’t have a vaccine,” says Dr. Megan Taylor.
The answers to these questions from local patients will be published in a series of articles, this is the second in that series.
I’ve had a reaction to the flu shot before, does that mean I should not get a COVID vaccine or that I am more likely to have a bad reaction to it?
These are two entirely different vaccines. History of having had any type of reaction to a flu vaccine (or any other type of vaccine) does not mean that you will react badly to this vaccine. It does not increase your chance of side effects at all.
What can I expect from the vaccine? Are the side effects bad?
The side effects are similar to those of many vaccines that we administer. It is common to have some pain and redness at the vaccine site. Some people will have low-grade fever, chills, body aches and tiredness for 24-48 hours after vaccination. Shortness of breath and cough are not a side effect of the vaccine. If you have either of these symptoms you should be tested for COVID-19.
I have _____ medical condition. Can I still get the vaccine?
In general, there are no medical conditions that mean you should not get a COVID-19 vaccine. However, if you have questions about your particular health condition and how it might be affected by COVID-19 vaccination, please reach out to your family doctor or nurse practitioner. We are very happy to talk to you and answer these questions.
I am pregnant/breastfeeding. Can I get the vaccine?
Yes! The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada recommends COVID-19 vaccination should be offered at any time during pregnancy and when breastfeeding. We know that pregnant persons are more likely to become severely ill with COVID-19 (8 – 11 per cent of those infected will require hospitalization and 2 – 4 per cent will need ICU admission).
COVID-19 infection in pregnancy also increases the risk of preterm birth. We encourage all pregnant persons to talk to their maternity care provider about their personal risk of COVID-19 and weigh that against what is known and not known about COVID-19 vaccination in pregnancy. For those who would like to read the full statement, it is available at sogc.org.
Will the Covid Vaccine give me a blood clot?
Each year 1-2/1000 people will develop a blood clot. COVID-19 infection is commonly associated with blood clots. About 1 per cent (1/100) people who have a mild infection (do not need hospitalization) will get a blood clot. While 5 per cent (5/100) with a moderate infection and 20 per cent (20/100) with a severe infection will develop a blood clot.
The COVID-19 vaccines including the AstraZeneca vaccine do not increase the risk of this type of blood clot. Even if you have a history of having a blood clot before, the vaccine does not increase your risk of a clot, though COVID-19 infection certainly does.
The AstraZeneca vaccine may be associated with a very rare type of serious blood clot that is triggered by a different mechanism than the usual type of blood clots that we think about. This type of clot occurs in two to four people for every one million people who receive the vaccine (1/250 000 – 1/500 000). You can read more about this at thrombosiscanada.ca.
What monitoring is done to look for side effects?
Canada has a system of local, provincial, and national surveillance to carefully monitor adverse events following immunization and detect any vaccine safety concerns. Once a vaccine is approved, its safety is continuously being monitored as long as it is used. In most provinces and territories, including BC, health care providers are legally obliged to report all serious and unexpected adverse events following immunization to the medical health officer.
Every serious or concerning event is reported to the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC). These reports are reviewed at BCCDC and also sent to the Public Health Agency of Canada system called the Canadian Adverse Events Following Immunization System (CAEFISS), as are reports from all provinces and territories. Additional monitoring for adverse events is being done through a system called CANVAS (Canadian National Vaccine Safety Network) through which recipients of the vaccine can enrol to self-report adverse events following receipt of the vaccine, with serious events being reported on to the regional health authority.
Vaccine safety is also monitored at the international level. The World Health Organization’s International Drug Monitoring Program collects reports from over 75 countries and uses these global data to monitor for any vaccine safety concerns. In addition, all vaccine manufacturers must report serious adverse events of which they become aware, in Canada or internationally, to Health Canada. For COVID-19 vaccines, manufacturers are expected to implement enhanced monitoring activities.
Can I talk to my family doctor about my concerns and whether or not I should be vaccinated?
Yes please! If you have a vaccine question, please call our office and leave a message with the receptionist stating that you would like to have your doctor call you about COVID-19 vaccination. You do not need to make an appointment! Just leave the message and we will call you back. It is very important that our community gets vaccinated and we want to make it as easy as possible to have your questions answered.
When can I get a vaccine?
Well, we wish it was tomorrow! Vaccine supply is still limiting our ability to vaccinate people. But it is coming, so let’s get ready. Everyone over the age of 18 is now eligible to register for vaccination. This is not the same as getting an appointment, but it does get your name on the list. That way, when vaccine supply increases you will be ready.
You can register by phone at 1-833-838-2323 and online at gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated. And don’t forget if you are in the Phase 1 or Phase 2 Groups or have a condition which makes you clinically extremely vulnerable, you are eligible for a vaccine appointment right now.
If I have been vaccinated, why do I have to keep following these stupid rules?
I thought you said the vaccine was really effective! We know! It is so frustrating. But we need more people vaccinated before the restrictions can be lifted. Your vaccine protects you. But it doesn’t fully prevent you from carrying the virus and passing it to someone who has not been vaccinated. Once enough of the population is vaccinated, the rates of COVID-19 infections will go down. We know this to be true from looking at our nursing home population and from other countries that have achieved higher vaccination rates. Please try to be patient.