Getting your 2nd shot: What British Columbians need to know

·6 min read
A man receives his first dose of vaccine at Bear Creek Park in Surrey, B.C., on May 17. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC - image credit)
A man receives his first dose of vaccine at Bear Creek Park in Surrey, B.C., on May 17. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC - image credit)

This story was last updated on June 4, 2021.

Seven months into B.C.'s vaccination program, more than 70 per cent of eligible British Columbians have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The coming months will see the province looking ahead to second doses for thousands of people

Here's what you need to know about getting your second shot in B.C. This story will be updated as we learn more information.

When am I supposed to get my 2nd shot?

Most people in the province will now be able to receive a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine eight weeks after their first.

Registering on B.C.'s Get Vaccinated immunization portal is the fastest way to get a notification when it's time to book the second dose appointment. You will get an invitation by text, email or phone call to book your second dose appointment roughly eight weeks after you receive your first dose, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC).

The maximum interval between doses in B.C. is 16 weeks.

How do I get registered?

As of June 3, anyone aged 12 and over can register in three ways:

  • By calling 1-833-838-2323. Translators are available in 140 languages.

What if I got my 1st dose before the vaccination portal opened?

Anyone who received their vaccine before the Get Vaccinated portal launched on April 6 would have booked through the old system and would not have been registered with the province's current online registration system.

Those people need to register now to receive an email or text notification of their second dose appointment.

If you're not sure if you're registered, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said there is "no problem" with registering more than once.

She said the system will let you know if you're already signed up.

Which vaccine do I get for the second dose?

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends mixing and matching AstraZeneca-Oxford, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

For Canadians who have had a first dose of Moderna or Pfizer, NACI said they can take either of the two shots as a second dose — because they both use a similar mRNA technology.

Henry said "it is always preferable to have the same vaccine for both doses" but it might not be possible if supply issues arise.

The BCCDC said it's best to get your second dose as soon as it is available rather than to wait to get the same vaccine again.

Pfizer is still the only vaccine approved for those between the ages of 12 and 17.

WATCH: Henry says best efforts will be made to ensure people get the same vaccine for both doses:

What if I received AstraZeneca for my first dose?

In B.C., those who received the AstraZeneca vaccine for their first dose now have a choice. They may either obtain AstraZeneca through a pharmacy for their second dose or receive a second dose of an mRNA vaccine through a mass vaccination clinic.

People will be contacted by their pharmacy about their second dose of AstraZeneca, Henry said.

If they decide they prefer to receive an mRNA vaccine for their second dose, they can decline that appointment and wait to receive an invite through the provincial registration system.

Pharmacist Mario Linaksita, right, administers the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Donna Tangye, 59, at University Pharmacy in Vancouver on April 1.
Pharmacist Mario Linaksita, right, administers the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Donna Tangye, 59, at University Pharmacy in Vancouver on April 1.(The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)

Henry said the odds of developing a rare blood clot that has been associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine is much lower for the second dose. She said people must make a personal choice, depending on their level of concern about rare blood clots, though she did recommend receiving the same vaccine where possible.

"It's just as good to get a second dose of AstraZeneca or get a second dose of mRNA after having AstraZeneca as a first dose. You should get the second dose with the same vaccine you had your first dose. That's what I would be most comfortable with," she said.

Every combination of vaccines will provide equal protection, she said.

Are there any priority groups?

Henry said B.C.'s second dose program "is based on the same principles" as the first dose program — meaning seniors, Indigenous people and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable are at the "top of the list." The same goes for hotspot communities — like Prince Rupert — that were vaccinated en masse. People who fall under those categories will receive a notification from the province when they can book an appointment.

For the rest of the population, the age-based program will continue as it did with first doses.

A health-care worker displays a vial of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on March 1.
A health-care worker displays a vial of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on March 1.(Luc Gnago/REUTERS)

How many doses are required in total?

The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines require two doses.

WATCH: Henry says their data shows infections are extremely rare in those who have been immunized:

Do I have to keep wearing a mask and distance myself from others once I've had both shots?

Yes.

Even if you have received the vaccine, you must follow provincial health orders. You must continue to wash your hands, stay home and get tested when sick, keep a safe distance from others and wear a mask in public indoor spaces.

Pharmacist Eugene Woo delivers an AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to a person at Davie Pharmacy in Vancouver on April 20.
Pharmacist Eugene Woo delivers an AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to a person at Davie Pharmacy in Vancouver on April 20.(Ben Nelms/CBC)

When can life go back to normal?

B.C. is aiming to lift virtually all of its public health restrictions in early September. If that happens, masks would be a "personal choice" and events and socializing would happen as they did before the pandemic.

The restart plan is entirely contingent on case counts dropping, hospitalizations declining and 70 per cent of the population getting vaccinated.

Immunizations are currently ahead of the curve: roughly 71 per cent of eligible British Columbians had already received their first dose as of June 2.

Still, Health Minister Adrian Dix said there are no plans to speed up the target dates for each stage of restrictions being eased. He said June 15 continues to be the earliest possible date to enter Step 2.

How will the vaccine be distributed across B.C.?

For the majority of people, second shots will be distributed the same way as the first ones.

Vaccinations will continue at more than 100 mass clinics that opened across the province this spring. Those are the facilities located at large centres, like school gyms, arenas, convention centres and community halls.

Officials have been returning to long-term care homes to provide second doses to residents. The province is also going to repeat community vaccination clinics for Indigenous people.

Mobile clinics in self-contained vehicles are available for some rural communities and for people who are homebound due to mobility issues.

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