Saskatchewan battling misconceptions on vaccines

·5 min read

As Canada continues its Covid-19 vaccine rollout and works towards vaccinating the general public, people have questions about the specifics of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that are being administered by health professionals.

The Government of Saskatchewan wants all residents to feel comfortable receiving the vaccine when it’s readily available to the general population and has plenty of resources accessible to give people a better understanding of the vaccine.

Covid-19 vaccine science from the Government of Saskatchewan:

Scientists all over the world have worked on developing and testing Covid-19 vaccines.

The technology was recently applied to this situation, but the work has been going on for years.

Approved Covid-19 vaccines use “messenger RNA” to make the body produce antibodies to fight the virus. It is not DNA, and has no effect on a person’s genes. It only triggers the body’s immune response, to help it get ready to fight the virus.

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 95 per cent effective in preventing people from getting Covid-19. Two doses are required for the highest effectiveness.

There have been no shortcuts taken in developing Covid-19 vaccines. They have gone through all the necessary steps. Clinical trials began March 1, 2020 and have involved many thousands of people. Scientific validation and thorough, independent reviews followed.

Development of Covid-19 vaccines was done more quickly because of unprecedented worldwide funding and collaboration due to the pandemic.

Canada has real-time access to manufacturer clinical data for promising Covid-19 vaccines being developed. Health Canada fast-tracks approvals by reviewing data as it comes instead of waiting until all the data is in to start to review it.

There is a lot of misinformation circulating about the vaccine—including that Covid-19 vaccines contain human or animal cells. They do not. Make sure to seek information from credible, science-based sources.

To become immune to Covid-19, the human body must learn how to stop by creating antibodies that can fight against it and that’s where the vaccine comes into play.

According to the Government of Saskatchewan’s health professionals the mRNA vaccines teach human cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response without using the live virus that causes Covid-19. Once triggered, the human body then makes antibodies. The antibodies help fight the infection if the real virus does enter the body in the future. The vaccine is given as a needle in the upper arm. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will require two doses.

As of now the vaccine is being prioritized for health workers and high risk Canadians, but as it becomes more readily available to the general public the most people are encouraged to get vaccinated with a few exceptions.

There has been some concern over different groups potentially struggling to tolerate the vaccine, but other than pregnant women, children, and those allergic to ingredients, there is no definite reason to worry—those worried due to other health risks are encourage to speak with their doctor.

Based on the clinical trials and the approval by Health Canada, the Pfizer vaccine can be used for anyone 16 years of age and over and the Moderna vaccine can be used for anyone 18 years of age and over. The vaccines should not be given to people who are allergic to any of the vaccine ingredients, including polyethylene glycol. At this time the vaccine has not been studied in pregnant and breastfeeding women and younger children—pregnant women and people with conditions that affect their immune system should consult their health care provider. Even if a person has already had a Covid-19 infection, they should still receive the vaccine once they’ve recovered. We expect to receive more detailed information from the vaccine manufacturers and Health Canada as soon as it’s available.

After having the vaccine administered some people may feel side effects, but health professionals say that’s not unexpected and unless the side effects are severe there’s no cause for alarm.

There might be some mild symptoms a day or two after receiving the vaccine. The most common side effects are localized pain or redness or swelling at the injection site. Other symptoms may include mild fever, chills, headache, joint or muscle pain, nausea and vomiting, enlarged lymph nodes under the arm, or feeling tired. As with all vaccines, there’s a chance that there will be a serious side effect, but these are rare. A serious side effect might be something like an allergic reaction. All residents will be asked to report any adverse or unexpected reactions to your local public health nurse, a pharmacist, doctor, or nurse practitioner as soon as possible, the government states.

As to why two doses of the vaccine are needed, it’s because one will not create enough antibodies to fight the virus.

According to the governments health professionals, there is no evidence that individuals have a sufficient antibody reaction to only one dose to provide protection from Covid-19.

Two doses are required. When receiving the first dose of the vaccine, people will be provided documentation of which vaccine they have received and when to return for the second dose.

Even after receiving both doses of the vaccine, people still must wear their masks and follow all provincial health and safety guidelines.

While experts learn more about the protection that Covid-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important to continue using all the public health protection tools available to help stop this pandemic, like wearing a mask, washing your hands frequently and maintaining physical distancing.

Experts need to understand more about the protection that Covid-19 vaccines provide before deciding to change recommendations on steps everyone should take to slow the spread of the virus that causes Covid-19. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision.

As more people become vaccinated, the provincial government will remain focused on transmission rates to make decisions on loosening restrictions.

As of 8 am Monday, March 15, vaccination appointments can be booked for people 70 and over, and for those 50 and over in the Northern Administrative District, and the province expects to have provided at least the first vaccine

Rob Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The World-Spectator