With the recent announcement that Health Canada has approved Moderna’sÂ COVID-19 vaccine, the second being made available toÂ the public, CanadiansÂ are likely wondering when it will be their turn to get inoculated.
But with the country currently in the first phaseÂ of vaccine rollout, that’s still unclear, with muchÂ depending on what they do and where they live.
It’s up to each individual province and territory to decide how the vaccine will be administered. But generally, they are following the recommendations putÂ forward by the federal government’sÂ National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI). TheÂ advisory committee made these recommendations using experts in the fields of pediatrics, infectious diseases, immunology, pharmacy, nursing, epidemiology, pharmacoeconomics, social science and public health.Â
Who is getting vaccinated first?
For the first phaseÂ of the vaccine rollout plan, NACIÂ advised that initial doses should go to these four groups:
- Residents and staff of long-term care homes.
- Adults 70 and older, beginning with people 80 and older, then decreasing by five-year increments to 70Â as supply becomes available.
- Health-care workers,Â including all those who work in clinicalÂ settings, and personal support workers who come in direct contact with patients.
- Adults in Indigenous communities, where infection can have disproportionate consequences.
For Phase 2Â of the vaccination rollout, NACIÂ recommended that recipients include:
- Health-care workers who are not part ofÂ the initial rollout.
- Residents and staff of all other congregate settings (e.g.,Â living quarters for migrant workers, correctional facilities, homeless shelters).
- Essential workers, includingÂ police, firefighters and those inÂ food production.
Provincial and territorial governments may make modifications to that list. For example, Alberta’s plan separates the first phaseÂ into Phase 1A and Phase 1B withÂ First Nations, MÃ©tis and people 65Â and over living in a First Nations community or MÃ©tisÂ settlement not getting the vaccine until the second half of the first stage.
In Quebec, it was recently decided that caregivers over the age of 70 who visit residential and long-term care homes at least three times a week will be added to the high-priority group.
As for Phase 2,Â many regions have not yet prioritized who will be eligible or defined who will be considered an essential worker.
The first phaseÂ is expected to wrap upÂ for many provinces by the end of March, while the second phaseÂ could last into mid-summer.
When is the general public expected to receive a vaccine?
Much of that depends on the province or territory. In Ontario, retired general Rick Hillier, the head of the province’s vaccination distribution task force, said he believes “we can get into a lot of mainstream Ontario by later July.”
But other provinces, such asÂ Alberta, have pegged the fall ofÂ 2021 as the beginning of the third phase, when the general population will receive the vaccine.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says the entireÂ countryÂ should have enough doses on hand next year to vaccinate every Canadian who wants a shot by the end of September. But those timelines may differ depending on the province and territory.
Where do I get the vaccine?
For the first stage, because the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech must be kept frozen between 80 C and 60 C, the vaccine is being administered atÂ clinics across the country equipped with specialÂ freezers. That means some of the vulnerable living in long-term care centres are unable to get the vaccineÂ because it can’t be transported to care homes, and many residents are unable to travel to the clinics.
However, the approval of theÂ ModernaÂ vaccine, which doesn’t have the same onerous storage requirements as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, means some ofÂ those residents may have access to vaccination in long-term care homes. It also means that people in northern remote andÂ IndigenousÂ communitiesÂ who weren’tÂ able to store the Pfizer-BioNTechÂ vaccine will start receiving theÂ ModernaÂ vaccine.
By the second phase, vaccines shouldÂ become more widely available at more sites, including hospitals and potentially some pharmacies.
For the third phase, family doctors’Â offices and pharmacies will likely offer the vaccine.Â Hillier said that getting a COVID-19 vaccine during this period should be no harder than getting a shingles or flu shot.
I had COVID-19. Do I get the vaccine?
There’s not enough information yet to know whether people who have previously tested positive for COVIDÂ would needÂ the vaccine for immunology, said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease doctor in Toronto and a member of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force.
However, reports of peopleÂ getting reinfectedÂ with COVID-19 as soon as four months after recovering from their previous infection, suggest that most people who have recovered from COVID-19 will be eligible for vaccination.
How do I find out when it’s my turn to get vaccinated?
During the first phase, health officials are urging the generalÂ public not to show up at vaccine clinics set up across the country. Many regional health officials are contacting those who are eligible, or those who are eligible are being notified through their employer. In Manitoba, appointments are being made by phone, with a new online system to be launched in early 2021.
As for the general public, who don’t fit into the priority groups, British Columbia, for example, is currently putting together a system that will allow the public to register for access to the vaccine and to be formally recorded as being immunized.
Mostly, however, provinces are still developing those plans.
WATCH | Rick HillierÂ on whether the Moderna vaccine works with just one shot:
The head of Ontario’s vaccine distribution task force, retired general Rick Hillier, wants Health Canada to see if a single dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine offers enough protection to avoid a second shot.1:14
For more information about each province and territories’ vaccine rollout plan, click on their government website:
WhoÂ shouldn’t get a vaccine yet?
The national advisory committee has recommended that certain populations not be vaccinated until more evidence is gathered about potential risks. TheyÂ includeÂ those who:
- Are immunosuppressed due to disease or treatment.
- Have an autoimmune condition.
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding.
However, aÂ Â COVID-19 vaccine may be offered to individualsÂ if a risk assessment deems that the benefits outweigh the potential risks.
Will Canadian snowbirds have to fly home for a shot?
According to the Canadian Snowbirds Association, for those snowbirds currently in Florida, the state’s vaccination plan states that residency will not determine access to the COVID-19 vaccine. This means that non-residents, including Canadians who live in FloridaÂ part of the year, will be able to receive the vaccine in the state when it is more readily available in the coming months.
The same applies for Canadian snowbirds in Arizona.