Answers to Patient Questions & Concerns
I don’t need a vaccine. I am not at risk/COVID-19 isn’t that bad.
COVID-19 is much more serious than the flu. In Canada, the flu kills roughly 3,500 patients per year. In less than a year, COVID-19 has killed 4 times that many.
Even if a young and healthy person does not die of COVID-19 infection, they may have long term complications from COVID-19, affecting multiple organ systems. Long-term effects include memory loss, fatigue, body aches, unexplained breathing difficulties, and damage to the lungs and heart. Clinics have already been set up to support the many COVID-19 patients who, although they are no longer infected, cannot go back to work or live a normal life.
Even if you do not develop severe COVID-19 infection, you may still pass on the virus to someone who will. If you are vaccinated, you’re helping protect the people around you.
• Flu facts. (Gov of Ontario, 2020)
• Long-Term Sequelae and COVID-19 – What We Know So Far (PHO, July 10, 2020)
• Emerging evidence: Prolonged symptoms of COVID-19 (CEP, 2020)
I will wait to get the vaccine. There are not enough vaccines to go around/I want to see what happens to others who have received it.
The pandemic – and the lockdowns and public health measures – will not end until the majority of Canadians are vaccinated. To ensure we can vaccinate everyone as quickly as possible, it is important that people access the vaccine the first time it is offered to them.
Canada has ordered more than enough vaccines - we have purchased more shots per person than any other country in the world! We will be getting those vaccines delivered over time. The implementation plan of those vaccines is designed to most efficiently end this pandemic. You can feel confident that when you are offered one, it is because it is the right time for you to get it. This is your chance to do your part to end the pandemic and get back to normalcy quickly.
If you wait to get vaccinated and get infected in the meantime, you may end up in hospital – which would put more strain on the system than getting the vaccine.
If Canadians wait to get the vaccine, more people will die.
• Vaccine Availability and Rollout (MOH, December 12, 2020)
Did scientists and the government skip steps to rush vaccine production and approval?
No steps were skipped in the process of developing, testing, approving, and producing the vaccine.
Canada’s best independent scientists have thoroughly reviewed all the data before approving the vaccine as safe and effective for Canadians.
The vaccines were produced faster than before not because of skipped steps but because of never-before-seen levels of collaboration and funding around the world invested in this effort. Normally, vaccine clinical trials need 6000-8000 people for the approval process. The Pfizer-BioNTech trial had over 45,000 people and the Moderna trial over 30,000.
Unlike with other vaccines that go one step at a time and then plan the next step, for the COVID-19 vaccines, governments invested in having companies plan all the steps at the beginning and build up their manufacturing capacity right away.
I have reviewed the steps taken and have full faith in it. Myself, my colleagues, and my family will be taking or have taken the vaccine. Health Canada is known to have a rigorous and thorough approval process to ensure the safety of all Canadians.
• COVID-19 vaccine approval process and safety (MOH, Dec 12, 2020)
• Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine: Authorization information (Health Canada, Dec 11, 2020)
How can the vaccine have been developed so quickly?
The use of mRNA for vaccines and treatment of disease has been around for a while – that’s one of the reasons why these vaccines could be developed so quickly. mRNA vaccines have been used in animal models for influenza, Zika, Rabies, CMV and others, and in humans for cancer treatment and cancer vaccine clinical trials.
mRNA vaccines are like CD players that can play any kind of CD - classical music, rap or pop. The scientists had the CD player before COVID-19 hit. Once they figured out the Coronavirus CD, they could place it into the player and make the vaccine a lot faster than before, since they used what was known and built on it.
Over 70,000 doses have been tested in the mRNA phase 3 trials so far, without any safety concerns.
• mRNA vaccines — a new era in vaccinology (Nat Rev Drug Discov, 2018)
• Safety and Efficacy of the BNT162b2 mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (NEJM, Dec 10, 2020)
• Promising Interim Results from Clinical Trial of NIH-Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (NIH, Nov 16, 2020)