Common Questions and Answers about Vaccines
It is Immunization Awareness week in Canada so we thought it would be a good time to review the basics of vaccines and answer common questions we receive from clients. In the midst of a pandemic, it is comforting to know that we can prevent serious diseases with available vaccines.
Who is being vaccinated during the pandemic?
Infant and early childhood immunizations are an essential service to protect your child from childhood diseases that can still spread even with physical distancing. At a minimum, the 2-4-6 and 12 months vaccine series should be given on time. Call your nearest public health clinic to arrange an appointment for your infant or toddler. Some parents might be anxious about attending an immunization clinic during this COVID-19 outbreak. However, these clinics have been streamlined and careful precautions have been adopted by the immunizers to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
How do vaccines prevent disease?
When you receive a vaccine for a specific disease, a weakened virus or a portion of the bacterium is introduced into the body to start an immune response. (It is the same response your body would make if you were exposed to the disease in the environment). Your immune system responds by creating antibodies against the bacteria or virus (pathogen) and remembershow to destroy it. So if you come in contact with the pathogen in the future, you won’t get sick.
What is a booster dose?
A booster is the same dose or concentration of the vaccine you have already received. It is an additional dose of a vaccine, required to boost the immune response.Booster doses provide long-term protection.
What do I do if I can’t find my vaccination records?
A good starting point to find your records is to contact your public health unit. In addition, you might need to contact each clinic or office where you received vaccinations.
Clinics where you may have received vaccinations:
- your family doctor
- public health unit (eg. Vancouver Coastal Health, Fraser Health)
- travel clinic
- walk-in clinic
- elementary or high school (you will need to contact the public health office near the school(s)
- work place clinics (if you were vaccinated through your employer)
If I started my vaccine series and stopped, how do I complete the series?
For most vaccines, if you started but did not complete a vaccine series, you simply continue with the series. If you do not have vaccine records, it is safe to repeat vaccinations. Bloodwork can also determine if you are immune to certain diseases.
Why are some vaccines ‘free’ and others not?
The BC Ministry of health provides publicly funded vaccines for protection against diseases that are a public health risk for Canadians. Vaccines that protect against diseases that are NOT endemic in Canada are paid by the recipient. Yellow Fever, typhoid fever, hepatitis A and Japanese encephalitis are not public health risks for Canadians. Therefore, these vaccines are not covered by public health.
Other vaccines, are recommended but not provided for free because the risk is low compared to the cost of the vaccine for the government. This is true for the shingles (Shingrix) and pneumococcal pneumonia (Prevnar13) vaccines. They are recommended for those 50 years of age and older but they are not covered by MSP.
Can I receive more than one vaccine at one time?
Yes, it is safe to receive more than one vaccine at the same time.
What are the side effects of vaccines?
The most common side effects of any vaccination are soreness, and redness or swelling at the injection site. These side effects are generally mild and usually last 1-2 days. On occasion, some vaccines can cause fever, achiness, fatigue or a headache. Applying a cool compress to the site and taking Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Advil) can decrease tenderness.
Why do I need vaccines if I am not travelling?
Vaccine-preventable diseases are still present in Canada. Adults require vaccines to stay healthy and to help prevent the spread of diseases. For some vaccines, the immune response can decrease over time and a booster is required for continued protection.
Which vaccines are recommended for adults?
Vaccines recommended for adults depending on your lifestyle, career, age, health and vaccine history:
- Tetanus Diphtheria (Td)
- Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough) (Tdap)
- Pneumococcal Pneumonia
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis A
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
- Measles Mumps, Rubella (MMR)
- Varicella (Chickenpox)
When am I able to receive the shingles vaccine?
This is a question we are hearing more and more as younger people are experiencing shingles. Shingles is caused by a reactivation of the chickenpox virus and 90-95% of Canadians carry this virus. The shingles vaccine (Shingrix) is licenced for those 50 years and older and it requires two doses, 2-6 months apart. After the second dose, the vaccine series is complete and provides up to 95% protection against shingles. This vaccine is not available through public health. You can make an appointment with TravelSafe to start or complete your Shingrix vaccine series.
Wondering which vaccines you may need to protect your health?
Now is a great time to review your vaccine records. A Registered Nurse at TravelSafe can provide a comprehensive review of your immunization history and discuss other vaccines recommended for you based on your lifestyle, age, and health history. Protect your health and stay up to date with your immunizations!
We’d like to hear from you! If you have a question or a topic you’d like us to review, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org