If you have a fever or any other symptoms of COVID‑19, or if you have received instructions from Public Health to self-isolate because of COVID‑19, you must postpone getting vaccinated.
People 16 years of age and older can get the COVID‑19 vaccines unless contraindicated. Studies are underway to allow vaccination for people under 16 years of age.
The vaccination is recommended as a priority for people with a higher risk of complications of COVID‑19, in particular people 70 years of age and older who live in residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs). For more information, see Priority groups for vaccination.
When a person is given the COVID‑19 vaccine, 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 vaccines do not protect against colds and respiratory infections caused by other viruses, such as influenza.
Objectives of vaccination
COVID-19 vaccination is primarily aimed at reducing COVID-19 hospital admissions and deaths among people who are most at risk.
Vaccination should also help maintain health and social services activities and a return to a normal life as soon as possible.
Numerous studies carried out in Québec and elsewhere have shown that vaccination is highly effective in preventing COVID-19, hospital admissions and deaths both after the first dose and after 2 doses.
Studies are underway to determine whether people who have been vaccinated no longer spread the infection and whether the usual protective measures (physical distancing, wearing a mask and handwashing) can be relaxed.
Description of the vaccines
Where to get vaccinated
Go the COVID-19 vaccination campaign page for the procedure to get vaccinated.
COVID-19 vaccination is free and conducted by the Québec Immunization Program. Doses are not available on the private market.
Any electronic communication or call offering to get vaccinated for a fee is fraudulent. If you believe you have been the victim of a fraudulent communication, please notify the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre .
Previous efforts, particularly during the SARS epidemic in 2003, have advanced research on coronavirus vaccines and accelerated the development of COVID‑19 vaccines.
Clinical trials of some fifty COVID‑19 vaccines are currently underway around the world. It is an unprecedented scientific effort. To promote rapid vaccine development and meet all the regulatory requirements, considerable human and financial resources have been invested.
Public health and regulatory authorities in several countries, including Canada, are actively working to ensure that safe and effective COVID‑19 vaccines become available as quickly as possible.
Go to Vaccine development process page to learn more about the steps required to make a vaccine.
Various types of COVID‑19 vaccines are being studied:
These vaccines contain an RNA strand of one of the proteins found on the surface of the SARS‑CoV‑2 virus, which is responsible for COVID‑19. This strand of RNA serves as a “recipe” for the immune system to produce the protein. Since RNA is fragile, it is encased in a protective bubble of fat that allows it to penetrate the body and retain its shape until it enters human cells. Once it has entered, it provides the recipe for the cells to produce the protein. Then, the immune system will produce antibodies in response to the presence of this protein, which it recognizes as a virus.
These vaccines are very pure and do not contain any antibiotics or preservatives. The RNA fragment degrades rapidly after injection of the vaccine. There is no risk that this RNA will alter our genes.
Viral vector–based vaccines
These vaccines use genetically modified viruses that are harmless to humans to produce the S protein.
These vaccines contain non-infectious fragments of proteins or protein envelopes that mimic the envelope of the virus. Some contain an additional substance, called an adjuvant, that creates a more robust and longer-lasting immune response.
Safety of the vaccines
The COVID‑19 vaccines approved by Health Canada are safe. The vaccines were tested on a large number of people and have met all the requirements for approval.
COVID‑19 vaccines must meet the same quality and safety standards as any other vaccine used in Canada.
Once a vaccine has been approved, its safety is continuously monitored in order to detect very rare adverse reactions, if any. Canada and Québec have a very comprehensive system to ensure the safety of vaccines after they have been brought to market. Any unusual adverse effects reported are examined by experts to quickly identify any safety problems.
Millions of people have now been vaccinated without serious adverse effects being attributed to vaccination, except for rare cases of allergy that responded well to treatment. This type of reaction occurs with all vaccines.
Adverse events following the administration of two batches of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine have been reported in Europe. These events were observed in people under 55 years of age, mainly in women. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is currently assessing the potential link between the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and these events. The EMA still considers this product to be safe and effective.
No doses of these batches have been distributed in Canada. At this time, there is no information to suggest that the AstraZeneca vaccine carries a higher risk than any other vaccine. To date, no adverse events related to the AstraZeneca vaccine have been reported in Canada. Monitoring is ongoing.
As a precaution, the use of the AstraZeneca (Covishield) vaccine has been suspended for people under 55 years of age until expert assessments have been completed.
Although side effects may occur shortly after a vaccine is administered, this does not mean that they are caused by the vaccine.
You cannot choose the vaccine you will be given. This will be determined based on available doses, expert recommendation and a clinical assessment at the time of vaccination. If you have concerns about the vaccine you are offered, discuss it with the health care professional responsible for doing your assessment when you arrive at the vaccination site. You can then make an informed decision.
It is important to get vaccinated when it is your turn. All the available vaccines offer good protection against COVID-19 hospital admissions and deaths.
For more information on the steps taken by Health Canada to evaluate vaccines, visit the page Regulating vaccines for human use in Canada on the Government of Canada website.
All the vaccines available are more than 80% effective against serious forms of COVID-19, which prevents hospital admissions and deaths.
In studies, RNA-based vaccines and viral vector-based vaccines triggered a good immune response against COVID-19, even in older adults.
Administration of the 2nd dose
The Comité sur l'immunisation du Québec (CIQ) recommends giving a 1st dose to as many people as possible in the first six priority groups before administering the 2nd dose in order to protect as many people as possible quickly.
Since COVID-19 transmission rates in the population are still high, delays in vaccinating some very vulnerable groups would result in many deaths and hospital admissions. In addition, limited quantities of these vaccines are available at this time.
Studies have shown that vaccination is highly effective in reducing the severe form of COVID-19 after a single dose, in both older adults (e.g., 80 years of age or older) and younger people (e.g., health care workers). For other vaccines requiring multiple doses, the immune response is generally better when doses are not too close together. For vaccines in general, the response is usually better when there is a longer interval between the 1st and 2nd doses. Studies on COVID-19 vaccines are ongoing, but it is reasonable to believe that COVID-19 vaccines work the same way.
The 2nd dose is still useful. It will provide optimal protection in the longer term. Administering the 2nd dose is important and it must be offered to everyone. In the vaccination campaign, the National Director of Public Health recommends 16 weeks between doses.
Since the vaccine has been shown to be highly effective after the 1st dose, postponing the 2nd dose is not thought to increase the risk of having variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. The higher the number of people vaccinated, the lower the risk of seeing SARS-CoV-2 variants appear. The risk of mutations is higher when a large number of people are infected. Efficacy data for these vaccines against variants are being closely monitored, both in Québec and around the world.
People who have been vaccinated must continue to comply fully with the health instructions.
Vaccination for people who have had COVID-19
For people who have had COVID-19, a single dose of the vaccine is required. The infection triggers the immune system's response the same way a 1st dose of the vaccine does. The dose of vaccine given to someone who has had COVID-19 has a booster effect the same way a 2nd dose of the vaccine does.
Note that giving two doses of vaccine to someone who has had COVID-19 is not dangerous, but the risk of having adverse reactions is higher. In addition, the 2nd dose does not provide any additional protection for these people.
For people with a weakened immune system or who had COVID-19 when they were given the 1st dose or in the days after they were vaccinated, two doses are required.
Impacts of variants
Variants are a natural phenomenon that occurs when the virus multiplies and undergoes mutations. Most mutations are of no concern. A new variant is not necessarily more dangerous than the virus was before the mutation.
A mutation may change a virus to the point of making it unrecognizable to the immune system and making the vaccine that fights it less effective.
At this time, what we know about the variants does not call into question the need to get vaccinated as quickly as possible. The available vaccines are effective against the various known variants.
Conditions for postponing vaccination
If you have a fever or any other symptoms of COVID-19, or if you have received instructions from public health to self-isolate because of COVID-19, you must postpone getting vaccinated.
Symptoms after vaccination
Some reactions may occur following vaccination:
COVID-19 vaccination - American Sign Language (ASL)
Last update: March 31, 2021