We wish you all a happy and healthy new year.
Thankfully, 2021 has brought us a beacon of hope. Vaccines are currently being administered in Canada to help us control the COVID-19 pandemic. With this good news comes many questions. We wanted to share with you the information on what we know so far.
The vaccines are safe
The two mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) approved for use in Canada work by sending a message to our body’s immune system to stimulate our own natural immune response. Research into mRNA vaccine technology began in the early 1990s, so this science is not new. As well, more than 70,000 people were involved in the trials of these approved vaccines and, as of January, more than 15 million people have been vaccinated worldwide. No serious safety concerns have been identified.
The vaccines are effective
We know the vaccines protect us from catching COVID-19 and getting more severe illness from COVID-19. The 94 to 95% effectiveness of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna two vaccine schedule is as good as the results of the best vaccines we have for preventing any disease.
People who were vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus were about 20 times less likely to get sick with COVID-19 than those who were not vaccinated. The vaccine also likely prevents us from spreading COVID-19 to our loved ones and those around us, although studies are ongoing. This level of efficacy will play a major role in helping slow spread and move us towards a post-pandemic Canada.
The vaccine’s known side-effects
As with other vaccines, some people can develop mild side effects in the days following immunization that are generally not serious and go away on their own. In the studies, side effects included one or more of the following symptoms: pain where the needle was given, redness and swelling, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, chills, mild fever, and/or swollen glands (less frequently). These types of side effects are expected and simply indicate the vaccine is working to produce protection. These side effects are more likely to occur after your second dose.
When will I get the vaccine?
Ontario’s goal is to vaccinate every eligible person by the end of 2021. In general, older adults and others at high risk of getting sick or transmitting the virus will be vaccinated before others. It will take some time to vaccinate enough of our community members and achieve shared protection through herd immunity. We do not know yet if or when Taddle Creek will have vaccines for our patients, but we will keep you updated as more information becomes available. In the meantime, it is crucial that we all continue to follow public health protocols; wear a mask in public spaces, keep two metres apart, and wash hands often.
Should I get the vaccine if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?
Pregnant and breastfeeding women were not included in trials for the currently available vaccines. However, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada has stated that “the documented risk of not getting the COVID-19 vaccine outweighs the theorized and un-described risk of being vaccinated during pregnancy or while breastfeeding and vaccination should be offered.” The Ontario Ministry of Health guidance states that pregnant women should discuss risks and benefits with their family physician or primary healthcare provider.
Should I get the vaccine if I have a history of allergies or am immunosuppressed?
People who have ever had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to a previous dose of an mRNA vaccine or any of the ingredients in the vaccine should not receive it. We will discuss any allergies or other health conditions you may have before you receive the vaccine.
If you are immunosuppressed due to a condition or treatment, we will discuss the benefits and risks of vaccination given your particular situation and come to a decision together. People who were immunosuppressed were not included in the trials for the currently available vaccines, although vaccination is generally felt to be a good idea for you to reduce your risk of getting a COVID-19 infection.
Can I get a vaccine if I am on blood thinners?
Yes. There is no need to stop these important medications. We recommend that pressure be applied to your arm for five minutes after vaccination.
In summary, the vaccines are safe and effective. We will continue to monitor the vaccine rollout and provide you with the most relevant science-based information as soon as we have it available to us. The next page discusses common myths about Covid-19 vaccination.
Please remember, our healthcare professionals and offices remain accessible to you by phone or in person visits (if deemed necessary). Thank you all for what you have done to keep yourselves, your loved ones, and your communities safe.
Taddle Creek Family Health Team
MYTH: “These vaccines were developed too fast”
FACT: An amazing worldwide effort was put into this endeavour and resulted in very large and well-run trials with none of the usual delays. Also mRNA vaccine is fast to produce.
MYTH: “The vaccine can cause Covid-19”
FACT: You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. The Covid-19 vaccines we have now and the ones in development contain only bits of virus mRNA or protein to trick the body into mounting a defense that prevents real infection. Side effects like headache, muscle aches, fever or arm soreness are signs that your immune system is learning! And these side effects are nowhere near as bad as the real infection can be.
MYTH: “mRNA vaccines can change your DNA”
FACT: mRNA enters the cell but not the nucleolus. The body reads the mRNA to make spike protein and then mRNA quickly degrades. The body sees the spike protein and launches it’s defense so it’s ready for the real deal.
MYTH: “mRNA vaccines have dangerous ingredients”
FACT: Actually there are very few ingredients in these vaccines. What is most remarkable is what is not in there: no preservatives, no formaldehyde, no thimerosol, no mercury, no gelatin, no food, no egg, no dye, no fetal cells and no microchips!
MYTH: “We are missing long-term data”
FACT: Vaccine side effects are known to occur within 6 weeks. So far with the many millions vaccinated there have been no safety concerns. The only real unknown is how long the vaccine will be effective for. Medical professionals are much more concerned about the long-term known and unknown effects of contracting actual Covid-19 infection!
MYTH: “Since I already had Covid, I don’t need the vaccine”
FACT: Vaccination is still recommended. We don’t know how long immunity lasts and it is not uncommon for people to have Covid-19 infection more than once.
MYTH: “Once I have the vaccine, I no longer need to follow public health precautions”
FACT: Until enough people are vaccinated and the pandemic is under control, it is essential that everyone continue to mask, physically distance and wash their hands. Two vaccines a few weeks apart are required and it takes time to make antibodies. Also, we don’t know if it’s possible for vaccinated individuals to asymptomatically transmit virus to others.