The COVID vaccines are safe and effective.
Manitoba’s doctors created ManitobaVaccine.ca because we care about the health and well-being of Manitobans, and we know many of you have questions about the COVID-19 vaccines.
You will find basic information below about the vaccines approved for use in Canada. You will also find answers to common questions under our Ask a Doctor section. You can also submit questions too if you can’t find the answers you need.
We want you to know that doctors overwhelmingly support the COVID-19 vaccines. Physicians recommend that all Manitobans get immunized as soon as possible, with only a few exceptions. The sooner most Manitobans get vaccinated, the sooner we can end the pandemic and return to a more normal way of life.
Whether you want to learn more about the vaccines, find out when you will be eligible, or know where to get a shot, doctors have reliable answers you can trust. We are with you on this vaccine journey, every step of the way. Let us keep you up to date about the COVID-19 vaccines.
If you have questions about the vaccine, doctors have answers. Check out our vaccine facts below, or talk to your doctor to learn more.
Why get the COVID vaccine?
There are several good reasons to get immunized! It’s about you, those around you, and helping all of us get back to a more normal way of life.
By getting immunized:
- You will be protected from COVID. Your risk of serious illness, hospitalization or dying from the disease will be dramatically lower. This is a new virus, and even younger and healthier people have become very ill. Some people have lasting effects even from a mild infection.
- You will help protect your family and friends from COVID, especially those who might be at higher risk of getting seriously ill.
- You will help everyone get back to a more normal way of life, because once enough people get immunized, it will be much harder for COVID to spread or mutate.
Getting the vaccine is a personal choice. Doctors support and trust these new vaccines. We recommend them for nearly all Manitobans. If you are unsure, we have more answers to common questions here, or talk to your doctor about your personal concerns.
- Check when you’ll be eligible. You can also sign up to be notified!
Are the COVID vaccines safe?
Yes, physicians are confident that the COVID vaccines approved for use in Canada are very safe.
While developed more rapidly than past vaccines, safety remained a top priority. The safety of the vaccines was proven in large clinical trials. There is now even more evidence of their safety with hundreds of millions of doses administered worldwide.
Health Canada’s approval process is rigorous. With nearly 100 different vaccines in development, Canada has so far approved four that have all of the necessary clinical trials and safety data. These four vaccines have each been independently reviewed and approved in many other countries. Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada continue to monitor the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines, providing weekly updates.
As Dr. Joss Reimer explained recently, “we know more about vaccine safety than we do about any other medical intervention in the world.” (March 3, 2021)
You can learn more about the safety of the COVID vaccines from:
Health Canada: Vaccine Safety after Authorization
Health Canada: Vaccine Safety Monitoring
Johns Hopkins University: Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Safe?
COVID-19: Vaccine Safety (World Health Organization)
Do the COVID vaccines really work?
Yes, all approved vaccines are very effective. That’s why doctors are recommending them to nearly all Manitobans.
The vaccines approved for use in Canada are highly effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death. They have similar protection compared to existing routine vaccines for other diseases like polio and measles, and much better effectiveness than the flu shot.
The safety and efficacy of approved COVID-19 vaccines has been demonstrated both in clinical trials and in the real world. Hundreds of millions of doses have been safely administered in dozens of countries and new reviews of real-world data are finding the vaccines offer very strong protection against COVID-19. Further research is also finding the vaccines can decrease the spread of COVID-19.
Find out more about vaccine effectiveness from:
Vaccines lead to 85%-94% decline in risk of hospitalization in Scotland (British Medical Journal)
Vaccine found 94% effective in real world (Israel experience)
When and where can I get the vaccine?
The COVID-19 vaccines are not yet available to everyone. Because supplies are limited, the Manitoba government is ensuring those most at risk get access to the vaccine first.
This means starting with those who live in personal care homes, health care workers, older Manitobans, and First Nations Manitobans in remote communities.
Everyone will become eligible in the weeks and months ahead, and doctors want to help you find out when you will be eligible and how to get the shot.
Find out when you will be eligible for the vaccine
Do younger or healthy people need the vaccine?
Yes, even younger adults and healthy people should get the vaccine. There are three key reasons why you should still get the vaccine, even if you don’t feel at risk from COVID-19:
- Protect yourself: It’s not worth taking a chance with COVID when there’s a safe and effective way to prevent it. While COVID-19 can be more serious for the elderly, Indigenous Peoples, or those with underlying health conditions, younger and otherwise healthy people have had serious outcomes too.
- Protect those you love: Even if you don’t see the personal benefit, think about your family and friends, or others you come in contact with. Getting the vaccine helps to protect them too.
- Ending the pandemic: We need 70-80% of Manitobans to get the vaccine if we want to get back to a more normal way of life. This makes it harder for COVID-19 to spread, and less likely for more dangerous mutations to happen. You can help by getting immunized.
Research is still underway to confirm the safety and efficacy of the vaccine for children and youth.
Learn more about the risks of COVID-19 here:
Johns Hopkins University: Younger Adults Are at Risk, Too
Data reveal deadliness of COVID-19, even in young adults (Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy)
Who should and should not get a COVID-19 vaccine?
Almost all adults should get the COVID vaccine. It’s safe, effective and doctors recommend it for almost everyone, including those who have recovered from COVID-19 in the past.
There are very few people who should not get immunized. These include:
- Children and youth. The vaccines are not yet approved for younger people, though research is underway to confirm vaccine safety and efficacy for this age group.
- People with severe allergies to vaccine ingredients. You can view the ingredient list for the approved vaccines. Severe allergies to these ingredients are very rare. Food allergies or other allergies are NOT a reason to avoid the vaccine. If you are concerned, talk to your doctor.
Some people may need to wait or should seek medical advice before getting immunized. This includes people who:
- Have COVID-19 symptoms or those who are isolating due to a potential exposure. Wait until public health clears you before getting the vaccine.
- Had a different vaccine recently. It’s best to wait two weeks after getting a different vaccine.
- Have had severe allergies to other vaccines or injectable medications in the past, or have had an anaphylactic reaction in the past but do not know the cause. Talk to your doctor first.
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding. You can get the vaccine, but you should consult a doctor first.
- Have suppressed immune systems or are undergoing treatments that can weaken your immune system, like chemotherapy. You may be able to get the vaccine, but you should consult a doctor first.
Like any medication, surgery or other treatment, vaccines also have risks of side effects. The good news is for those who have side effects, they are almost always mild and go away quickly. For almost everyone, the risk of getting COVID is much higher — like thousands of times higher — than the risk of a serious reaction from the vaccine, and the vaccine offers the benefit of preventing serious infections. Your doctor can assess your medical situation and advise you about the vaccine.
If you have questions about whether the vaccine is right for you, talk to a doctor.
Do I have to pay for the vaccine?
No, it will not cost you anything to get the vaccine.
The Canadian and Manitoba governments are covering all of the costs, from the vaccine supplies to paying the doctors and other health professionals who will administer the vaccine.
Find out where to get the free COVID-19 vaccine
The vaccines were developed so fast. Were safety steps skipped?
These vaccines were developed and approved faster than any other major vaccine in history. They were fast tracked, but this doesn’t mean corners were cut or important steps were skipped.
COVID is a new disease that has disrupted how people live around the world and killed millions.
The faster development, approval and delivery were possible because of:
- Unprecedented international cooperation
- Strong, uninterrupted funding for research and development
- Better coordination and information sharing between scientists and drug companies
- Faster enrolment in clinical trials due to the public concern and interest
- A regulatory approval process that reviewed trial data in real-time
- Manufacturers starting to produce vaccine supplies before approval, to avoid the usual delay between approval and production
The steps in the research and approval process were also streamlined to help speed up the work without compromising the clinical trial or regulatory processes that assure safety. All steps in vaccine development that ensure safety were followed for the approved COVID vaccines.
Find out more about how these vaccines were safely fast tracked from:
Health Canada: Drug and vaccine authorizations for COVID-19
Health Canada: Vaccine development and approval in Canada
Health Canada: Watch a video version on how COVID-19 vaccines are developed
How do the new vaccines work?
In a nutshell, vaccines train our immune system so it is ready to respond if we are ever exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. You can’t get the virus from these vaccines.
COVID-19 viruses have spikes on the surface, called spike proteins, which they use to attach and enter human cells. These spikes allow the virus to infect you. The vaccines target these spike proteins, helping your immune system to recognize them in the future to prevent COVID-19 infection and illness.
All approved vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death.
Pfizer and Moderna mRNA Vaccines
Two vaccines approved for use in Canada, from Pfizer and Moderna, use messenger RNA, or mRNA, technology.
These vaccines train our body to make a harmless piece of what is called the spike protein found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. This triggers an immune response, something our body will remember if we are exposed to COVID-19 in the future. What is left from the vaccine is quickly broken down and expelled from our body.
While this is a new vaccine, it is not new technology. The messenger RNA response has been used for other medical treatments, including for cancer.
The mRNA vaccines do not contain the live virus that causes COVID-19, and they cannot affect our DNA in any way.
Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson Viral Vector Vaccine
Unlike many other vaccines, non-replicating viral vector vaccines use a harmless cold virus to deliver the genetic code from the spike on the surface of the COVID-19 virus. This trains our immune system to react in the future.
This technique has been used in the past, most notably in a vaccine approved for Ebola. This type of vaccine is more rugged than mRNA vaccines, so they don’t need to be frozen.
Find out more about how these vaccines work:
About the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine (Health Canada)
About the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine (Health Canada)
About the AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine (Health Canada)
About the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) Vaccine (Health Canada)
Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines (CDC in U.S.)
Understanding Viral Vector Vaccines (CDC in U.S.)
How do Vaccines Work? (World Health Organization)
What are the side effects?
Like any medicine, the COVID-19 can sometimes cause mild side effects. Serious side effects are extremely rare.
Common side effects are generally mild and might include tenderness, redness, or swelling at the injection site, headache, low fever, or you may feel unwell. These are more common after the second dose than the first. If you experience symptoms like this, they won’t last long and they are much milder than what COVID-19 can cause.
Side effects occur because the vaccine triggers your immune system to start fighting. If they last longer than a week, or you get a high fever, contact your doctor or seek medical attention.
In very rare cases, a serious allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis, could occur. This is why you are asked to stay for about 15 minutes after your immunization, to ensure medical help is available if you have a rare reaction.
If you’re concerned about side effects or allergies, talk to your doctor. You can also review the following resources:
Where can I learn more?
If you want more information, contact your doctor to talk about the COVID vaccine.
You can also learn more from the following resources, which doctors often reference for trusted information about the vaccines:
- Manitoba government vaccine site and Q&A
- What you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine for Canada (Health Canada)
- Immunize Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine resources
- Vaccine trackers from McGill University and New York Times
- CANVax COVID-19 resources
- Ryerson University’s COVID-19 MisInfo, a fact checking portal.
- Canada’s recommendations on the use of COVID-19 vaccines (National Advisory Committee on Immunization)
You can submit a general question about the vaccines on our site, and we may post your question and the answer from doctors.