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COVID-19 Vaccine

Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to protect you and those around you from serious illnesses like .

Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. This can reduce your risk of developing  and make your symptoms milder if you do get it.


How do vaccines work?

When a pathogen enters your body, your immune system generates antibodies to try to fight it off. Depending on the strength of your immune response and how effectively the antibodies fight off the pathogen, you may or may not get sick.

If you do fall ill, however, some of the antibodies that are created will remain in your body playing watchdog after you’re no longer sick. If you’re exposed to the same pathogen in the future, the antibodies will ”recognize” it and fight it off.

A vaccine triggers an immune response to create the antibodies without you first having to get sick.

Vaccines contain weakened or inactive parts of a particular organism (antigen) that triggers an immune response within the body.

Newer vaccines contain the blueprint for producing antigens rather than the antigen itself. Regardless of whether the vaccine is made up of the antigen itself or the blueprint so that the body will produce the antigen, this weakened version will not cause the disease in the person receiving the vaccine, but it will prompt their immune system to respond much as it would have on its first reaction to the actual pathogen.

Some vaccines require multiple doses, given weeks or months apart. This is sometimes needed to allow for the production of long-lived antibodies and development of memory cells. In this way, the body is trained to fight the specific disease-causing organism, building up memory of the pathogen so as to rapidly fight it if and when exposed in the future.


Why is vaccination so important?

  • Vaccines protect people against very harmful and serious diseases like measles, polio, meningococcal disease, tetanus, diphtheria, and more. 
  • Vaccines have saved more lives in Canada than any other medical intervention in the past 50 years. The World Health Organization estimates that vaccines save 2-3 million lives worldwide every year. They also protect against diseases that may not be deadly but can cause pain and permanent disability.
  • Diseases like tetanus, whooping cough and the flu are continually present in Canada. Other diseases are common in parts of the world with different immunization programs from Canada. Due to international travel these diseases can come to Canada. It is important for us to maintain high rates of immunization to keep them from infecting others and spreading.


Why is the COVID-19 vaccine so important?

  • COVID-19 vaccines will work with your immune system so it will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. The combination of getting vaccinated and following public health recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19.
  • Widespread vaccination is a key step in ending the global COVID-19 pandemic.


Are vaccines safe?

Safe and reliable vaccines can help protect you and your family from .

They will be an important tool to help stop the spread of the virus and allow individuals, families and workers to safely resume normal life.

The vaccine does not cause a COVID-19 infection. It helps to build up your immunity to the virus, so your body will fight it off more easily if it affects you.

After independent and thorough scientific reviews for safety, efficacy and quality, Health Canada has approved two vaccines for use in Canada:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech – approved on December 9, 2020
  • Moderna – approved on December 23, 2020

Both vaccines are manufactured in Belgium. After two doses, they are expected to be 94-95% effective.

Vaccines undergo a comprehensive review of their safety, quality and efficacy (how well they work) before they are approved and can be used in Canada. After approval, vaccines are continually monitored through a “vaccine safety surveillance” to ensure their safety.


How was the COVID-19 vaccine developed so quickly?

Messenger RNA vaccines—also called mRNA vaccines—are some of the first COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in Canada.

mRNA technology has been studied for more than 10 years, most often in cancer research and treatment as well as in the development of new vaccines against such infections as pandemic influenza and rabies.

mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.

Shortly after COVID-19 was identified, scientists were able to map the genes that make up the virus. Once the structure of the genes was known, especially of the spike protein that allows that virus to fuse with and enter our cells, scientists were able to quickly create the vaccine and start the clinical trials.

The vaccine is the result of the combination of the mRNA technology and the genetic mapping of COVID-19.


Will I have to get more than one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Building up immunity takes time. One dose of vaccine may not be enough to provide individual protection. You may need to get a second shot to allow your body to develop adequate immunity.

For the currently approved Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine, two doses of the vaccine are required for better protection, given 21 days apart. It can be given to people 16 years of age and older, including seniors. After completing the two-doses, it may take another seven days to achieve maximum protection against COVID-19. The Pfizer-BioNtech clinical studies included over 43,000 participants and was 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 beginning 2 weeks after the second dose.

Two doses are also required for the Moderna vaccine. Based on studies in about 30,000 participants, the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine was 94.1% effective in preventing COVID-19 beginning 2 weeks after the second dose. This means that people may not be fully protected against COVID-19 until at least 14 days after the second dose. The Moderna vaccine is approved for people 18 years or older at this time.



Will I need to get the vaccine if I have already had COVID-19?

Yes. You should still get vaccinated. At this time, we do not know the length of immune response in those who’ve had the COVID-19 infection. . When you have the COVID-19 vaccine, it can help protect you against re-infection and prevent you from transmitting the virus to others.


If I get vaccinated, will I be immune to COVID-19 for my entire lifetime?

At this time, the duration of protection from the vaccines remains unknown, and further doses may be necessary. The duration of immunity from contracting the infection also remains unknown. Ongoing monitoring of the COVID-19 vaccines and their effects on long-term immunity continues.


What is herd immunity?

Herd immunity occurs when a high percentage of the community is immune to a disease (through vaccination and/or prior illness), making the spread of this disease from person to person unlikely.

Even individuals not vaccinated (such as newborns and the immunocompromised) are offered some protection because the disease has little opportunity to spread within the community.

The percentage of people who need to be immune in order to achieve herd immunity varies with each disease. For example, herd immunity against measles requires about 95% of a population to be vaccinated. The remaining 5% will be protected by the fact that measles will not spread among those who are vaccinated. For polio, the threshold is about 80%.

The proportion of the population that must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to begin inducing herd immunity is not yet known.

Achieving herd immunity with safe and effective vaccines makes diseases rarer and saves lives.



Is the vaccine free?

The vaccines will be provided free to everyone who wants it. It will take some time to get the vaccine to everybody, and vaccines will be distributed to priority groups first (such as acute healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities) but, when you are able, you will get it for free.


COVID-19 vaccination is currently being distributed by the province. More information about Ontario’s Distribution Plan can be found here.

Stay tuned for more specific details about local distribution in Haldimand and Norfolk.