Canada is currently in the first phase of its three-phase COVID-19 Immunization Plan. At present, high-risk populations, such as the elderly and front-line health care workers, are being vaccinated.
The Public Health Agency of Canada plans to vaccinate all Canadians, who wish to be immunized, by the end of 2021.
Though essential to contain the pandemic, vaccine shots are not going to be mandatory. Governments have not made it compulsory due to human rights reasons. In the workplace, this means employers can’t force their staff to get vaccinated.
However, employers must still take all reasonable precautions for the health and safety of employees in the workplace. What employers can and should do is educate their staff on the benefits of the vaccine and recommend immunization.
Here are some common questions your staff may have about the COVID-19 vaccine:
How do vaccines work?
Vaccines help us build immunity to a disease without falling sick. They are developed using dead or weakened forms of the germ causing a disease. In some cases, they may be made using genetic engineering.
When we get a vaccine shot, our immune system creates antibodies to fight the germ in the vaccine. It remembers the germ and how to destroy it. This way our immune system can quickly destroy the germ if we are exposed to it in the future.
Why should I get vaccinated against COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a highly contagious viral infection that can cause severe illness or even death in some cases.
Vulnerable populations (such as those over the age of 65, those with a weakened immune system, and/or a pre-existing medical condition) are at a greater risk of experiencing a severe, and in some cases even fatal, reaction to the virus.
Protection from COVID-19 through vaccination is critical. After you are vaccinated, your chances of falling sick due to COVID-19 will be low, and the chances that you may get very sick or be hospitalized will be extremely low.
Getting the vaccine to develop immunity to the virus is safer than contracting the real disease. The vaccine will ready your immune system to fight the virus if you are exposed to it. You must also observe other measures, such as using face coverings and social distancing, to reduce the chance of exposure to the virus.
Which vaccines are available in Canada for COVID-19?
At present, Health Canada has authorized four vaccines:
- It is approved for people 16 years of age and older.
- It is administered by an injection (0.3 mL) into the muscle of the arm.
- For it to work best, a person needs 2 doses: a single dose and then a second dose 21 days later.
- Based on studies in about 44,000 participants, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 beginning one week after the second dose.
- It is approved for people 18 years of age and older.
- It is given by an injection (0.5 mL) into the muscle of the arm.
- For the vaccine to work best, a person needs to get 2 doses: a single dose and then a second dose one month apart.
- Based on studies in about 30,000 participants, the Moderna vaccine was 94.1% effective in preventing COVID-19 starting two weeks after the second dose.
AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine
There are 2 manufacturers of the ChAdOx1-S vaccine authorized by the Canadian government:
- AstraZeneca (brand name AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine)
- Verity Pharmaceuticals and Serum Institute of India (SII) in collaboration with AstraZeneca (brand name COVISHIELD Vaccine)
Both are ChAdOx1-S recombinant vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
- The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is approved for people 18 years of age and older.
- It is administered by 2 separate injections of 0.5 mL each into the muscle of the arm.
- For it to work best, you need to get 2 doses: a first dose and then a second dose 4 to 12 weeks later.
- The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine showed an effectiveness of about 62% in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 disease beginning 2 weeks after the second dose.
- This vaccine is approved for people 18 years of age and older.
- A single 0.5mL dose of the vaccine is given by injection into the muscle of the arm.
- Based on studies in about 43,000 participants, the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine was 66% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 disease beginning 2 weeks after vaccination.
What is the COVID-19 vaccination process like?
The COVID-19 vaccination process may differ across provinces due to local restrictions or special requirements. The basic procedure outline is as follows:
- Before the vaccination, you will be requested to give consent for the vaccine to be given. You’ll also provide some medical history and known reactions/anaphylactic reactions to a vaccine, medicine, or food.
- The healthcare worker administering the vaccine will review your medical history and answer any questions you may have.
- A single dose of the vaccine will then be administered via injection into one of your arms.
- You may then be requested to wait in a rest area for 15-30 minutes. This will help monitor you for any immediate adverse effects, such as allergic reactions.
- Depending on the vaccination you receive, you will be issued with a reminder card or booking for your second dose.
Provinces and territories in Canada have created detailed vaccination rollout plans for their populations.
Do I need to worry about the side effects of a COVID-19 vaccine?
According to Health Canada, the side effects observed in general during clinical trials were mild or moderate. They included pain at the site of injection, body chills, feeling tired and feeling feverish. These are common side effects of vaccines and don’t pose a health risk.
Like with all vaccines, there is the rare chance of a serious side effect like an allergic reaction. It is important that you talk to your health professional about any serious allergies or other health conditions you may have before you get the vaccine.
Health Canada says it has carried out a meticulous scientific review of the available medical evidence to assess the safety of the available vaccines. It found no major safety concerns in the data reviewed.
Do you need help creating health and safety policies for the pandemic?
Our experts can help you develop company policies as well as with any other HR, health and safety, or employment advice you may need. See how we have helped other small and medium businesses get their business compliant with provincial legislation.