COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID-19

Last Updated: May 5, 2021

Vaccines are a critical way to limit the spread of COVID-19. They are effective and safe. Immunization protects your health, as well as the health of your loved ones and the community.

Frequently Asked Questions

AstraZeneca / Covishield|Eligibility|Booking an Appointment|Why Get Immunized|Getting a Vaccine|Vaccine Safety| How the Vaccines Work| After Immunization|Planning & Distribution|Other Questions

AstraZeneca / Covishield

As of April 20, AstraZeneca will be available for individuals born in 1981 or earlier. Alberta’s decision to reduce the age of eligibility for AstraZeneca / Covishield from 55 to 40 is based on public health recommendations looking at the benefit this vaccine offers weighed against the small risk of adverse events from this vaccine. As of April 17, more than 100,000 doses of AstraZeneca / Covishield have been administered in Alberta.

Q: Why is the age range being lowered?

A: With COVID-19 cases at high levels throughout the province, we are lowering the age eligibility for this vaccine so that as many Albertans as possible are able to be immunized as soon as possible.

The more people that get vaccinated, the sooner we can protect our communities, reduce the burden on our healthcare system, and get life back to normal in our province.

Lowering the eligibility age means 575,425 more Albertans can be vaccinated, bringing the total eligible population to 2.3 million.

Q: What is AstraZeneca / Covishield?

A: Covishield is the brand name of a vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India that is considered comparable to AstraZeneca / Covishield by Health Canada. AstraZeneca / Covishield was approved by Health Canada on Feb. 26, 2021.

Q: Have there been any reported cases of vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) in Alberta or the rest of Canada?

A: To date, two cases in Canada have been reported. One in Alberta and one in Quebec.

Q: Is the AstraZeneca / Covishield vaccine safe?

A: The AstraZeneca vaccine remains a good choice for people who are at risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19, who would otherwise have to wait several months to access another vaccine. Active cases, including variants of concern, are rising in Alberta, so individuals must weigh the benefits of earlier protection against severe outcomes from COVID-19, versus a longer wait for immunization.

While every adverse reaction is unfortunate, it is important to remember that these blood clots are extremely rare.

The global frequency of vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) has been estimated at approximately one case in 100,000 to 250,000 doses of vaccine.

Alberta Health and Health Canada are monitoring the scientific evidence, and will adjust recommendations as needed, as soon as possible. We will continue vigilantly monitoring the safety signals of all COVID-19 vaccines administered in Alberta.

Q: What should I know about vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT)?

A: The risk of experiencing any blood clots is very low. However, as with anyone who receives any medication, including a vaccine, we encourage you to monitor your health and seek immediate medical attention if you experience any health concerns.

If you experience any of the following symptoms within four to 20 days after immunization, please seek medical attention immediately. Symptoms include:

  • a severe headache that does not go away
  • seizure
  • difficulty moving a part of the body
  • new blurry vision that does not go away
  • difficulty speaking
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • severe abdominal pain
  • new severe swelling
  • pain or colour change of an arm or a leg

Q: Who should get this vaccine?

A: The AstraZeneca / Covishield vaccine will continue to be offered safely for people born in 1981 or before.

A: How to book: see ahs.ca/covidvaccine

Note: Albertans with chronic disease, First Nation, Metis, Inuit people can also receive AstraZeneca / Covishield appointments.

Q: How effective is this vaccine?

A: AstraZeneca / Covishield has been shown to reduce infection by 60 – 70 per cent and severe outcomes like hospitalization by 80 per cent. The vaccine is widely used in the United Kingdom, France and other countries.

Q: What if I am eligible but don’t want to get the AstraZeneca / Covishield vaccine?

A: If you choose not to get the AstraZeneca / Covishield vaccine now, you can wait until the next group or phase you will be eligible in to receive one of the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) instead.

Q: Where can I get the AstraZeneca / Covishield vaccine?

A: How to book: see ahs.ca/covidvaccine

Q: What should I consider when making my decision?

A: If you are thinking of getting the AstraZeneca / Covishield vaccine, we encourage you to speak with your healthcare provider. In consultation with them, you can determine if the benefits of immunization outweigh potential risks based on your health and circumstances.

We encourage everyone to review current evidence in order to make the best and most informed decision about your health, the health of your loved ones and the greater community. Refer to Health Canada for more information on AstraZeneca / Covishield.

Refer to Why Get Immunized for more information.

Eligibility

Q: When will the COVID-19 vaccine be available to the general public?

A: Spring / Early Summer (Phase 3) is the current estimate.

Any offers to provide vaccination to the public for a fee are not legitimate and should be reported to your local law enforcement agency’s anti-fraud/scam unit via the police non-emergency telephone line.

Q: Can I join a waitlist to be prioritized?

A: No - Alberta does not have a waitlist.

We know many people are anxious to be immunized for COVID-19, including those who are considered higher-risk or have other underlying health conditions.

Continue to follow all public health guidelines to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

More information will be shared as it becomes available. Please do not call Health Link about eligibility.

Q: What is the rollout plan for the vaccine?

A: Alberta Health, with input from Alberta Health Services, has identified the key populations to be included in the province's phased immunization program.

Exact amounts and timelines are subject to change as needed depending on vaccine supply.

Sign up through Alberta Health to get notified when it's your turn to be vaccinated.

Early Phase 1: December 2020

  • Vaccinations were offered to key populations, with a focus on acute care sites with the highest COVID-19 capacity concerns in Edmonton and Calgary:
    • Healthcare workers in intensive care units
    • Respiratory therapists
    • Staff in long term care (LTC) and designated supportive living (DSL) facilities

Phase 1: January to March 2021

Vaccinations are being offered to key populations across the province:

  • Respiratory therapists
  • Health-care workers in intensive care units
  • Health-care workers in emergency departments
  • Health-care workers in COVID-19 units, medical and surgical units, and operating rooms
  • Paramedics and emergency medical responders
  • Staff in long term care and designated supportive living facilities
  • Home care workers
  • All residents of long term care and designated supportive living, regardless of age
  • First Nations, Métis and persons 65 years of age and over living in a First Nations community or Metis Settlement
  • Seniors born in 1946 or before 1946, no matter where they live

How to book: see ahs.ca/covidvaccine

Phase 2 (AstraZeneca / Covishield): Started April 6

The following groups can receive the AstraZeneca / Covishield vaccine:

  • Albertans born in 1981 or before

How to book: see ahs.ca/covidvaccine

Eligible Albertans in this phase can choose to wait to receive a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine when it becomes available to them. People with serious chronic health conditions may want to consult their doctor first.

Phase 2 (Group A): Started March 15

Who's eligible in Group A:

  • Staff and residents of licensed supportive living (seniors) not included in Phase 1
  • First Nations, Inuit and Métis born in 1971 and earlier, no matter where they live (on and off reserve/settlement)
  • Albertans born between 1947 and 1956, no matter where they live

How to book: see ahs.ca/covidvaccine

Phase 2 (Group B, C, D)

Phase 2 is broken into Groups A to D. Vaccinations for each group will begin once the previous group has been completed. Timelines are subject to change depending on vaccine supply.

Detailed information on how eligible Albertans will receive the vaccine will be released prior to each group.

Group B: Started March 30

Albertans born between 1957 and 2009 with eligible high-risk underlying health conditions.

How to book: see ahs.ca/covidvaccine

Eligible Health Conditions

  • Asplenia or dysfunction of the spleen
    • A missing spleen or a spleen that is no longer working.
  • Cancer: People with a new diagnosis of or treatment for cancer in the last year
    • All forms of cancer are included, except non-invasive skin cancer.
  • Chronic heart disease and vascular disease
    • Including congenital heart disease, chronic heart failure, heart or kidney disease from high blood pressure, and a history of a stroke.
    • High blood pressure alone is not included.
  • Chronic kidney diseases requiring regular medical monitoring or treatment
  • Chronic liver disease due to any cause
    • Examples include cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis, and hemochromatosis.
  • Chronic neurological disease
    • Examples include epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, MS, muscular dystrophy and dementia.
  • Chronic respiratory (lung) diseases
    • Examples include COPD, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, and severe asthma, which has required an asthma-related emergency department visit or hospital admission in the past year.
    • Mild or well-controlled asthma is not included.
  • Diabetes requiring insulin or other anti-diabetic medication to control
  • Immunosuppression: a weakened immune response due to disease or treatment
    • Examples include anyone undergoing chemotherapy or treatment for HIV, genetic disorders of the immune system.
    • People receiving long-term medical treatment to control severe inflammation such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus.
  • Pregnancy: anyone who is currently pregnant
  • Severe mental Illness or substance use disorder requiring a hospital stay during the past year
    • Examples include schizophrenia, depression, anxiety disorders and others.
  • Severe obesity: a Body Mass Index of 40 kg/m2 or more
  • Severe or profound learning disabilities or severe developmental delay
    • Examples include individuals with Down syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder and others.
    • ADHD is not included.
  • Solid organ, bone marrow or stem cell transplant recipients

A more detailed clinical breakdown of these conditions and who is eligible is available.

A doctor’s or pharmacist’s note is not required to get the vaccine. However, you may want to talk to your doctor or pharmacist to help them understand if your condition is on this list.

Group C: Started April 12

  • Teachers, support staff and child care workers:
    • All certified K to 12 teachers actively teaching in public, separate, francophone, charter, private and First Nations schools
    • Substitute teachers, administrators and other certified teachers working in separate roles
    • Support workers such as education assistants, bus drivers and custodians
    • Child care workers and support staff in licensed child care programs such as day care, out of school care, preschool and family day homes
  • Shelter staff and residents
  • Correctional facility staff and inmates
  • Physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and all other health care professionals and their office or support staff who provide in-person, direct patient care
  • Individuals working in patient care facilities or providing services directly to clients in the community for Alberta Health Services, Covenant Health, Alberta Precision Labs, DynaLife, and students undertaking placement practicums in clinical areas
  • Healthcare workers on First Nation reserves and Metis Settlements
  • Workers at meatpacking plants – abattoirs for chicken, pork and beef only
  • Residents and support staff at eligible congregate living settings and workplaces at risk for large outbreaks: front-line policing and provincial sheriffs, front-line disability services workers that support clients in a variety of services and living arrangements, mental health and other types of licensed supportive living
  • Caregivers of Albertans who are most at risk of severe outcomes:
    • Up to 4 designated family/support people of those individuals in long term care, designated supportive living and licensed supportive living facilities
    • Household contacts age 16 and over and caregivers for children 11 and under (born in 2010 or later) who have an eligible chronic condition in Phase 2B but are unable to receive the vaccine due to age
    • Household contacts age 16 and over of eligible profoundly immunocompromised Albertans (see list under Follow up: Second dose)
  • Firefighters and front-line policing and provincial sheriffs who interact with residents at shelters, correctional facilities and remand centres
  • Canada Border Services Agency staff

See the full list of eligible healthcare workers.

How to book: see ahs.ca/covidvaccine

Bring proof of eligibility and employment to your appointment. See below for details.

Confirming Eligibility

  • Eligible workers, as well as designated family/support persons, are required to bring the following to their vaccine appointment:
  • Personal ID that shows birthdate (Driver's Licence or Alberta Health Care Card); and
  • Proof of employment or professional registration
    • For staff of congregate facilities and other eligible workers, proof of employment (such as a letter from their employer) is required.
    • For designated family support persons, a letter from the congregate living facility (for example, group home, speciality schools, etc.) is required.
    • An honour system approach will be used for household contacts of children 11 and under with eligible health conditions in Phase 2B.
    • An honour system will be used for household contacts of profoundly immunocompromised individuals.
    • An honour system will be used for teachers, support staff and child care workers.
    • Meatpacking plant workers will be offered the vaccine at on-site clinics provincewide. Workers who do not receive the vaccine at the plant will receive a letter to present at an AHS immunization clinic or participating pharmacy.
    • Health care staff who work in community practices will be notified of their eligibility through their employer, regulatory college or professional association. See the full list of eligible healthcare workers.

Group D: Starting April 30

  • Albertans born between 1957 and 1971
  • First Nations and Métis people born between 1972 and 1986, no matter where they live
  • Residents of Banff and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo born in 2003 or before

Phase 3: May to June

  • Starting on May 6: Albertans born in 1991 or before
  • Starting on May 10: Albertans born in  2009 or before

Q: Will the COVID-19 vaccines be available for children?

A: Vaccines in Phases 1 and 2 are currently authorized for people 12 years and older (Pfizer- BioNTech) or 18 years of age and older (Moderna and AstraZeneca / Covishield) and require two doses per person for optimal immunity to COVID-19.

Q: Is Pfizer-BioNTech approved for youths aged 12-15 by Health Canada?

The vaccine is approved for people who are 12 years of age and older. Its safety and effectiveness in people younger than 12 years of age have not yet been established.

Health Canada first authorized this vaccine with conditions on December 9, 2020, under the Interim Order Respecting the Importation, Sale and Advertising of Drugs for Use in Relation to COVID-19. On May 5, 2021, the authorization was expanded to include individuals aged 12 to 15.

Booking a COVID-19 Immunization Appointment

Why Get Immunized

Q: Why is immunization important?

A: Although some individuals are at greater risk for severe complications, without immunization, we have seen that even healthy Albertans are at risk of severe illness and even death from this virus.

Vaccines make your immune system stronger. They build antibodies to help prevent diseases. Immunization is safe. It is much safer to get immunized than to get COVID-19 disease.

We all must do our part to protect one another. Immunization is the single most effective means of protecting yourself, your loved ones and the greater community from COVID-19.

Q: How do I make the decision on which vaccine is right for me?

A: This decision is a personal choice. AHS, in conjunction with Alberta Health, recommends all Albertans get immunized as soon as they are eligible no matter what vaccine option is provided.

Those at the highest risk of severe outcomes or transmission of COVID-19 to those at high risk are recommended to receive the mRNA vaccines.

All other Albertans ages 18-64 years should consider receiving any of the currently authorized COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they are eligible.

All COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in Canada - Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) and AstraZeneca / Covishield, are safe and effective, and will help prevent serious illness.

We encourage you to speak with your healthcare provider. In consultation with them, you can determine if the benefits of immunization outweigh potential risks based on your health and circumstances. We encourage everyone to review current evidence in order to make the best and most informed decision about your health, the health of your loved ones and the greater community.

Widespread immunization will help all Albertans return to a more normal way of life, sooner.

Q: I have underlying health conditions. Is the vaccine right for me?

A: We understand some people may be anxious about whether the COVID-19 vaccine is right for them. It is always best to speak to a healthcare professional about your concerns so you can decide together whether the vaccine is right for you.

Alberta Health has provided a list of underlying health conditions to help determine if you are eligible for the vaccine.

Getting a Vaccine

Refer to COVID-19 Vaccine on MyHealthAlberta for information on:

  • Who Should Get the Vaccine
  • How Many Doses You Need
  • How Well the Vaccine Works
  • Side Effects
  • Info for Those Who:
    • Are Pregnant or Breastfeeding
    • Have a Weak Immune System
    • Have an Autoimmune Disorder
  • Who Should Not Get the Vaccine

Q: Do the current vaccines work against the variant strains of COVID-19?

A: Mutations in the COVID-19 virus are expected, resulting in variant strains of COVID-19 to emerge. At this time, there are several variant strains circulating around the world, and vaccine manufacturers are conducting studies to determine whether current vaccines work against these variants. We are watching this information closely. Studies by Pfizer have indicated their COVID-19 vaccine appears to work against the variants of the coronavirus first discovered in the U.K. and South Africa. Moderna has announced that its COVID-19 vaccine elicits virus neutralizing antibodies in trial participants that work against the new variants found in the U.K. and South Africa, in the laboratory setting. Studies for the AstraZeneca / Covishield vaccine have shown the vaccine works against the strain first discovered in the U.K., but may work less well for the variant first discovered in South Africa. Data about the efficacy of the licensed COVID-19 vaccines against the variants of concern is evolving. All manufacturers and countries that are using these vaccines continue to conduct further studies to learn more.

Q: Can I choose the vaccine I want when booking or at my appointment?

A: Based on current vaccine supply, at this time you will not be able to choose which vaccine you receive at your immunization appointment. If you have a contraindication or allergy to a vaccine ingredient, we encourage you to speak with your healthcare provider before you receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

If you do have a reason you cannot have a specific vaccine, such as a history of a severe allergic reaction to one of the vaccine ingredients, you should book your appointment by calling 811 so they can make sure you are booked to receive the right vaccine.

All COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in Canada - Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) and AstraZeneca / Covishield, are safe and effective, and will help prevent serious illness.

Q: When will I receive my second dose?

A: Emerging evidence shows first doses of the vaccine are at least 80 per cent effective at preventing severe illness and longer spacing between doses does not reduce the protection or duration of immunity for multi-dose products. This data include studies in healthcare workers, long term care residents, elderly populations and the general public. Real world vaccine effectiveness is typically lower than what you would see in clinical trials which report 92 per cent protection from symptomatic disease two weeks after a single dose.

Q: When do congregate care residents receive their second dose?

A: While the vast majority of residents in long term care (LTC), designated supportive living (DSL) and licensed supportive living facility, will have received one or both doses of COVID-19 vaccine prior to March 10, residents of seniors congregate care receiving their first dose will now be offered their second dose at the four month (16 week) interval in alignment with the new recommendations.

First and second dose appointments will be booked separately. Reminders to book second appointments will be issued.

Once you've had both doses of the vaccine, you are less likely to become sick with COVID-19, but we don't yet know if the vaccine prevents people from spreading the virus. Continue following public health measures to keep unvaccinated people around you safe.

Q: Will certain immunocompromised individuals be able to receive their second dose earlier?

Alberta Health has made the decision to decrease the period between first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine from 16 weeks to a minimum of four weeks for certain immunocompromised individuals. The latest research shows that certain immunosuppressed individuals cannot develop a sufficient long-term response to the vaccine and require their second dose sooner.

For those who have received an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) as a first dose, they can receive a second dose 3-4 weeks after their first dose. If it has been more than four weeks since the first dose, the second dose can be administered as soon as possible. There would be the same level of protection after both doses, even if the second dose is given later.

For those Albertans who received an AstraZeneca/Covishield vaccine as a first dose, they can have a second dose 12 weeks after their first dose.

Alberta is operating on the honour system for this population. A doctor’s note or other proof of eligible criteria is not required.

We encourage everyone in this cohort to speak with their healthcare provider or pharmacist to help them understand if their condition is on this list, or if they have any healthcare questions or concerns.

Q: What if I am allergic to ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccine?

A: It’s possible that someone may have an allergic reaction after receiving COVID-19 vaccine. Individuals with known allergies to any of the components of the vaccine should not receive it.

Ingredients

Q: I’ve recovered from COVID-19, should I still get the COVID-19 vaccine?

A: Yes, you should still be immunized. There is no mandatory waiting period between having COVID-19 disease and being immunized; however, it is recommended that people wait until they are feeling better.

Q: Should I leave a gap between getting the flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccine?

A: Everyone should get immunized against influenza each year. Having both illnesses at once can be dangerous. It is recommended that individuals wait at least 28 days after the administration of the two-dose COVID-19 vaccine to get another vaccine, including the flu shot. It is also recommended to wait for a period of at least 14 days after the administration of another vaccine, including the flu shot, before getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Q:Now that adolescents (born in 2009 or earlier) are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, will this affect other immunizations?

A: There is a lack of evidence to determine whether giving two different types of vaccines at the same time, or close together, could impact the way the vaccines work. Therefore, in Alberta we are recommending that there be space between the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines, including those typically recommended for adolescents.

Given the high rates of COVID-19 in Alberta it is a priority for all eligible individuals to be immunized as soon as possible. That may mean that other immunizations have to be rescheduled. Individuals should wait at least 28 days after a dose of COVID-19 vaccine to get another vaccine. They should also wait for at least 14 days after receiving another vaccine, before getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

All immunizations are important to ensure maximal protection against infectious diseases. For more information about vaccines that may be recommended for you, or your child, please visit: www.immunizealberta.ca.

Q: I am scheduled to have a surgery soon. Is it safe to still receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

A: Most surgical procedures would not impact the safety or effectiveness of immunization. While there are no contraindications related to COVID-19 vaccine administration and surgery, individuals may experience adverse events following their immunization which may impact their ability to attend a surgical procedure. Side effects, such as fever, would typically occur within 24 hours of having received a COVID-19 vaccine and would normally resolve within 48 hours. Therefore, it may be advised to avoid immunization within the seven days prior to undergoing a major surgery. For surgeries that impact the immune system (e.g.  transplantation) the full vaccine series should be completed 2 or more weeks in advance of the immunocompromising state, if possible.

After Immunization

Refer to COVID-19 Vaccine on MyHealthAlberta for information on:

Q: I received the COVID-19 vaccine, now what?

People who have received COVID-19 vaccine are still required to follow all measures put in place to prevent the spread of the virus. This includes all public health measures and for healthcare workers, existing PPE guidance, including continuous masking, continuous eye protection and IPC recommendations for COVID-19.

The vaccines being used in Alberta are good at protecting people from developing illness caused by COVID-19 but no vaccine is 100 per cent effective.

As we learn more about the vaccines and more people have been immunized, we’ll be able to revisit the requirements for people who have been immunized. In the meantime, it’s important that people who have been immunized continue to follow public health measures in order to protect themselves and others from COVID-19.

Q: I recently received the COVID-19 vaccine, but a few days later I developed symptoms and then tested positive for COVID-19. Why did this happen?

A: None of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines in use in Canada contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.

After COVID-19 immunization, it takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity so that you are protected from the virus. Therefore, you can still get infected with COVID-19 just before or just after being immunized, and become sick after your immunization occurred.

The COVID-19 vaccines are not 100 per cent effective. Although immunization will greatly reduce your risk of becoming infected with COVID-19, there is still a small chance that you can become infected even after being immunized.

Q: I recently received the COVID-19 vaccine and a few days later I was tested for COVID-19 and the result was positive, even though I had no symptoms. Did the vaccine cause a false positive test?

A: None of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines in use in Canada will cause you to test positive on a COVID-19 test.

There are two types of tests that are used to diagnose COVID-19, an antigen test and a PCR test. Neither test will detect the material in the current COVID-19 vaccines or the body’s response to the immunization.

If you are asymptomatic and test positive for COVID-19 after being immunized, then this positive test is the result of current or recent COVID-19 infection. After COVID-19 immunization, it takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity so that you are protected from the virus. Immunization will greatly reduce your risk of becoming infected but there is still a small chance that you can become infected even after being fully immunized.

Vaccine Safety

Check out Immunize Alberta for Common Questions about Vaccine Safety.

Q: What goes into making sure vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccines, are safe and effective?

A: Canada is recognized around the world for high standards for vaccine review, approvals, and monitoring systems. Only vaccines that are safe and effective will be approved for use in Canada. After a vaccine is approved for use, evidence on safety and effectiveness is reviewed by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization who provide recommendations on immunizations for individuals and for public health programs.

Q: Have there been any adverse events following immunization with the COVID-19 vaccine?

A: The Government of Alberta has the most up-to-date figures on adverse events following immunization (AEFI) with the COVID-19 vaccine.

As with anyone who receives any medication, including a vaccine, we encourage you to monitor your health and seek immediate medical attention if you experience any health concerns.

Healthcare providers play a crucial role in monitoring vaccine safety and are obligated to report adverse effects that may be linked to immunization. Adverse events are reported to the AHS Provincial AEFI Team.

How the Vaccines Work

Q: How do the COVID-19 vaccines work?

A: There are different types of COVID-19 vaccines.

mRNA vaccines

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. These vaccines contain the genetic instructions for making a protein that is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. It uses our cells to make this protein and triggers our immune system to make antibodies against it. Then, if the real virus enters our body in the future, these antibodies will help fight the infection.

Learn more about COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.

Viral vector-based vaccines

The AstraZeneca / Covishield and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccines are viral vector-based vaccines. These vaccines use a harmless virus, such as an adenovirus, as a delivery system. This “vector” virus is not the virus that causes COVID-19. Adenoviruses are among the viruses that can cause the common cold. When a person is given the vaccine, the vector virus contained within the vaccine produces the protein that is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19.This protein will not make you sick. It does its job and goes away. Through this process, the body is able to build a strong immune response against the spike protein without exposing you to the virus that causes COVID-19.

Learn more about viral vector-based vaccines for COVID-19.

Q: Will mRNA change my DNA?

A: No. Injecting mRNA into a person does not change the DNA of a human cell.

Q: Can the COVID-19 vaccine give me a coronavirus infection?

A: None of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines in use in Canada contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. The vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.

Planning & Distribution

Q: Which COVID-19 vaccines are approved for use in Canada?

A: To date, four products are approved by Health Canada:

Q: When will more COVID-19 vaccine arrive?

A: It will take several months for our province to receive enough vaccine for everyone to be immunized. That is why COVID-19 vaccine is being offered in a phased approached, so people most at risk get it first. More groups will be eligible as vaccine becomes available.

Q: Do I have to pay for the vaccine?

A: No, the COVID-19 vaccine is free and is being offered to key populations identified in the province's phased immunization program.

Any offers to provide vaccination to the public for a fee are not legitimate and should be reported to your local law enforcement agency’s anti-fraud/scam unit via the police non-emergency telephone line.

Q: Why is Alberta distributing COVID-19 vaccine in a different way compared to other provinces?

A: Decisions around immunization sequencing are being made very thoughtfully and carefully. There are many factors to consider, including vaccine supply and the need to protect populations at highest risk of severe outcomes.

Q: When did COVID-19 vaccine first arrive in Alberta?

A: Alberta began receiving vaccine doses in December 2020 for limited distribution.

Q: Who is responsible for vaccine planning?

A: Alberta has a robust system already in place to provide access to vaccines for routine immunization programs, including seasonal influenza campaigns and outbreak response activities. The Federal Government is responsible for supplying the COVID-19 vaccine while Alberta Health is responsible for vaccine policy setting and allocation of the vaccine. Alberta Health Services is responsible for administering the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the provincial immunization program.

Other Questions

Q: Do healthcare workers need to wear gloves when administering a vaccine?

A: Vaccine providers are not required to wear gloves when administering vaccine. Infection prevention and control practices are part of immunization procedures. They include hand hygiene (handwashing or use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer) before vaccine preparation, between vaccine recipients, and whenever the hands are soiled. The Canadian Immunization Guide does not routinely recommended gloves unless the skin on the vaccine provider’s hands is not intact (cuts, blisters etc).

Additional Information

AHS Staff & Health Professionals