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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.
A booster dose with a XBB.1.5 vaccine is highly recommended to people who are at higher risk for complications, that is:
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 considered to be at high risk for complications, immunocompromised or on dialysis
adults living in remote and isolated areas
This booster dose is highly recommended for people who have never had COVID-19.
The interval is 6 months or more since the last dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or a confirmed infection.
The booster dose with a XBB.1.5 vaccine is also offered to healthy people aged 6 months to 59 years who wish to receive it.
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.
A COVID-19 messenger RNA vaccine is recommended as a booster dose. However, people with a contraindication or who refuse messenger RNA vaccines may choose a recombinant protein vaccine with adjuvant as a booster dose.
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.
Symptoms after vaccination
Vaccination may cause symptoms 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 .
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.