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COVID-19 vaccination

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Goals of vaccination

The main goal of COVID-19 vaccination is to reduce the complications, hospitalizations and deaths associated with COVID-19. Vaccination may also prevent symptoms that last several months after infection, also called “long-COVID”.

Who can get the COVID-19 vaccine

The COVID-19 vaccine is offered free of charge to anyone aged 6 months and older who requests it. The number of doses and the intervals between doses depend on the age, vaccination history and medical condition of the individual.

Vaccination is specifically recommended for the following people:

  • people living in CHSLDs, RPAs, and other group settings with a high proportion of elderly and vulnerable individuals
  • people aged 60 years and older
  • people aged 6 months and older who are immunocompromised or on dialysis;
  • people aged 6 months and over living with a chronic disease (heart, lung, diabetes, severe obesity, etc.);
  • healthcare workers
  • pregnant women
  • adults living in remote and isolated areas

It is recommended that these people receive a dose of vaccine containing the XBB.1.5 variant. Healthy people aged 6 months and over can also receive this dose.

Most people already vaccinated against COVID-19 will have to wait at least 6 months before receiving this new dose.

Interval following COVID-19 infection

After infection with COVID-19, a person should wait at least 3 months before receiving a dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

For immunocompromised or dialyzed individuals, an interval of 4 weeks or more after infection is recommended. However, an interval of 21 days or more may be applied in some specific circumstances, as recommended by a healthcare professional.

Types of vaccines

COVID-19 messenger RNA vaccines

Québec experts recommend messenger RNA vaccines because they are more effective.

Pediatric formulations of these vaccines are used for children aged from 6 months to 11 years.

COVID-19 recombinant protein vaccines with adjuvant

These vaccines are approved for people 12 years of age and older in one of the following situations:

  • when messenger RNA vaccines are contraindicated
  • when a person refuses a messenger RNA vaccine.

How vaccines work

When a person is vaccinated against COVID-19, the body prepares its defence against the virus. A natural immune response is triggered that neutralizes the virus by producing antibodies and other defence cells.

The virus that causes COVID‑19 is composed of a strand of genetic material, RNA (ribonucleic acid), surrounded by an envelope. The surface of the virus contains proteins, including the S protein (spike protein) which gives it its crown shape, hence its name coronavirus. The S protein allows the virus to infect cells in the human body.

COVID-19 messenger RNA vaccines block the S protein, preventing the virus from entering and infecting human cells.

The COVID-19 recombinant protein vaccines with adjuvant contains the S protein (spike protein) and uses it as an antigen. The addition of adjuvant facilitates activation of the immune system cells to prevent the virus from entering human cells and infecting them.

These vaccines do not protect against colds and respiratory infections caused by other viruses, such as influenza.

Vaccines cannot cause COVID-19 because they do not contain the SRAS-CoV-2 virus, which is responsible for the disease.

Reactions after vaccination

Vaccination may cause side effects such as redness at the injection site. Other problems may arise by chance and are unrelated to vaccination, such as a cold or gastroenteritis.

Most reactions are mild and short-lived. Local reactions may occur up to 8 days after vaccination. They are most common after the second dose. For further information, please refer to the Vaccine information sheets for population This hyperlink will open in a new window..

Safety of the vaccines

The COVID‑19 vaccines approved by Health Canada are safe. They have been tested in quality studies on a large number of people and have gone through all the necessary steps prior to approval. They must meet the same quality and safety standards as any other vaccine used in Canada. Experts closely monitor any adverse events that might occur after vaccination and take measures to ensure that these vaccines are safe and effective.

Last update: November 15, 2023


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