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Canadian Pharmacists Association
Canadian Pharmacists Association

COVID-19 Vaccination FAQs

Answers to pharmacists’ most important questions about COVID-19 vaccines.

How will community pharmacy support COVID-19 vaccination?

As outlined in a recent report on COVID-19 Vaccine and Pharmacy Readiness from CPhA and Neighbourhood Pharmacies, community pharmacists have indicated that they are willing to provide COVID-19 vaccinations and most Canadians report that they would like to be vaccinated at a pharmacy. Our report also expands on how pharmacies and the pharmacy workforce can contribute to the vaccination campaign.

Provincial and territorial governments continue to evolve and implement their vaccine rollout plans according to Canada’s 7-point COVID-19 Immunization Plan and NACI’s Recommendations on the Use of CJOVID-19 Vaccines. Pharmacists and communiy pharmacies in many jurisdictions have begun administering COVID-19 vaccines. The Government of Canada maintains a webpage with up-to-date information on the vaccine rollout process for each province and territory.

Will pharmacists be prioritized among health care providers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccination of pharmacists varies based on jurisdiction and place of practice. Some provinces have included the vaccination of pharmacists in their priority framework. Some pharmacists have already received the COVID-19 vaccine, depending on their level of risk and place of practice.  Other provinces have not publicly indicated when pharmacists will receive the vaccine. Refer to local and provincial guidelines for more information.

Which COVID-19 vaccines are approved for use in Canada?

Hundreds of vaccine manufacturers have vaccine candidates in different stages of clinical trials. Canada has secured vaccine supply from 7 different manufacturers, several of which have been submitted to Health Canada for approval.

To date, the following vaccines have been authorized for use in Canada:

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

  • mRNA vaccine; requires ultra-cold storage (vials may be stored between -25°C to -15°C for up to 2 weeks)
  • Approved for use in individuals aged 16+
  • 2 dose regimen, 21 days apart
  • If possible, the COVID-19 vaccine should not be given within 14 days of receiving any other vaccine
  • At a minimum, 28 days should elapse after the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before receiving any additional vaccines
  • For more information, consult the product monograph and the NCCID Presentation on NACI Recommendations

Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

  • mRNA vaccine; store between -25°C to -15°C
  • Approved for use in individuals aged 18+
  • 2 dose regimen, 28 days apart
  • If possible, the COVID-19 vaccine should not be given within 14 days of receiving any other vaccine
  • At a minimum, 28 days should elapse after the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before receiving any additional vaccines
  • For more information, consult the product monograph and the NCCID Presentation on NACI Recommendations

AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

  • Adenovirus vector vaccine; store in a refrigerator
  • Approved for use in individuals aged 18+
  • 2 dose regimen, 4 to 12 weeks apart
  • If possible, the COVID-19 vaccine should not be given within 14 days of receiving any other vaccine
  • At a minimum, 28 days should elapse after the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before receiving any additional vaccines
  • For more information, consult the product monograph and the NCCID Presentation on NACI Recommendations

Janssen COVID-19 vaccine

  • Adenovirus vector vaccine; store in a refrigerator
  • Approved for use in individuals aged 18+
  • Single dose regimen
  • For more information, consult the product monograph. More information will be available as NACI recommendations are published.

Can COVID-19 vaccines be administered in different dosing intervals?

Due to recent vaccine supply and distribution challenges, the Government of Canada is revisiting the immunization schedule and NACI has published guidance that outlines key factors for consideration when adjusted dosing intervals may be required. Although it is advisable to follow the recommended schedule, NACI recommends extending the second dose for up to 4 months in the context of limited vaccine supply. This recommendation maximizes the number of individuals benefitting from the first dose of the vaccine.

How effective are the COVID-19 vaccines?

All COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada are effective. Clinical trial data from different vaccines should not be directly compared as each trial was different. To date, the Moderna vaccine is 94.1% effective, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 95% effective, the AstraZeneca vaccine is 62% effective and the Janssen vaccine is 66% effective. These are all good efficacy scores and individuals should receive whichever vaccine is made available to them.

How safe are the COVID-19 vaccines?

All COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada are safe. Serious adverse effects from any of the COVID-19  vaccines are rare. Common adverse events include injection site pain, fatigue, headache, body chills and feeling feverish. Health Canada is closely monitoring any reports of adverse events from the population as people receive the vaccine, and there have been no reports of unexpected side effects from patients to date. Anyone who witnesses or experiences an adverse reaction to the vaccine is encouraged to report the reaction to their health care provider.

Pregnant, breastfeeding and immunocompromised patients were not included in initial clinical trials. Careful consideration should be given to the benefits and risks of the COVID-19 vaccine in these populations. Children were also not included in initial clinical trials, so there is limited data about this population and it is not recommended that they receive the vaccine at this time. Clinical trials are currently underway in the pediatric population and safety data will be released when it is available. Adolescents 12 to 15 years of age may be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine if a risk assessment deems that the benefits outweigh the risks for the individual. The vaccine is contraindicated in individuals who have a history of anaphylaxis to any of the ingredients in the vaccine.

How many vaccines have been delivered and administered in Canada? How many people have been vaccinated?

Visit the COVID-19 Vaccination Tracker for the most up-to-date information on number of doses delivered, number of doses administered and number of people who have received a vaccine, by jurisdiction. (More information about COVID-19 cases across Canada can be found on the broader COVID-19 Tracker.)