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All About COVID-19, the Vaccine, and the World Coming Back to Normal

Where to start? This year was hectic for everyone, some more than others; social interaction is a necessity for humans. On a positive note, things are getting better, and the future's looking brighter day by day. Don't stress, look at it this way: according to COVID-19 Tracker Canada, more than several hundred thousand people get vaccinated in one day in Canada alone, and almost 80% of Canadians aged 12+ have gotten their first dose. Ontario's Government said the province would be open on September 1, and for schools, online courses will remain an option for those who want to continue online. We all probably have a new appreciation for everything in this world, such as social interactions, and this experience most likely taught us to look at the brighter side when things get rough. That gives so much hope that things will start to go back to normal, and there will be a significant change from the life we live right now, in a span of a couple of months. However, some people don't get why they should take the vaccine, which is understandable. Although, I will help you find your reason if going back to how normal and interacting with people again doesn't seem worth it.


The dream of going back to normal (Matt Kenyon/The Guardian).


Vaccine Myths and Facts


Let's talk about myths and facts, backed up by the CDC, since we can't always trust everything.


Myth: The vaccine is more dangerous than covid.

Fact: The covid death rate is 34x more than severe reactions from the vaccine.

Myth: The vaccine doesn't seem tested enough.

Fact: There were 10,000 more tests on the vaccine than standard, performed many large clinical trials, and scientists have been working on the vaccine for years.


Myth: If you got covid in the past, it means you're immune and can't get it again.

Fact: There were many reported to have covid twice; thus, natural immunity does last forever.


Myth: You can't get pregnant after taking the vaccine.

Fact: There is no evidence that one of the side effects is fertility problems; after all, pregnant people can still take the vaccine.


Why Should You Get Vaccinated?


The CDC outlines many benefits to receiving the vaccine. Most importantly, the vaccine doesn't aim to make you weaker; in the end, you're stronger. One of the most significant factors would be getting our everyday lives back. The vaccines will lower your health risk. People with weaker immune systems than others will gain a benefit since it would help keep their immune system stable. Getting the vaccine might save your life and everyone around you, like your friends and family. Young and healthy people can get sick as well. It's not costly (in fact, free in most cases)—no more fake news. Let's protect our future!


How Do You Book the Vaccine in Canada?


This process may seem immensely intimidating at first, but with time you will see it's much easier with simple steps, which we will provide! Firstly, you may or may not already know there are different types of vaccines at the moment; four verified and safe ones, according to the Ontario government. This may lead you to the question of which one is the best? Which one should I get? Frankly, there is no wrong or correct answer. All the vaccines fill the same purpose; although a particular vaccine may be more suitable for you, they all try to strengthen your health and immune system. For those who are allergic or not permitted to get a specific type of vaccine, various vaccines are available. Make sure it's one of the following four verified vaccines listed from most popular to least popular, Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19, Moderna COVID-19, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), and AstraZeneca.


People 12+ right now should get vaccinated, and if you have any of the following conditions listed on the Government of Ontario website, please consult your doctor before booking the appointment. Also, people with covid should not take the vaccine as it doesn't react well (if you have recovered, you are permitted to take the vaccine). Lastly, according to this Nature study, mixing two vaccines has been proven safe and provides the same benefits, if not more, and the same side effects as it would be with receiving the same vaccine for two doses.


Current approved vaccines


  • Pfizer-BioNTech – approved on December 9, 2020 (expected to be 95% effective after two doses)

  • Moderna – approved on December 23, 2020 (expected to be 94% effective after two doses)

  • AstraZeneca / COVISHIELD – approved on February 26, 2021 (expected to be 64% effective after two doses)

  • Janssen (Johnson & Johnson only one dose) – approved on March 5, 2021 (expected to be 66% effective after one dose)


Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 12+ conditions (more on the government website)


You should not obtain a second dose of either of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccinations if you have a severe or acute adverse reaction after receiving the first dose. You should not receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine if you have had an allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to any ingredient in an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (such as polyethylene glycol).


Moderna 18+ conditions (more on the government website)


You should not obtain a second dose of either of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccinations if you have a severe or acute adverse reaction after receiving the first dose. You should not receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine if you have had an allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to any ingredient in an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (such as polyethylene glycol).


Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) conditions (more on the government website)


You should not obtain an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine if you have had an allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to any ingredient in the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine (such as polysorbate). You should not receive the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine.


Who should not get the vaccine (according to the government website)


You should not get any vaccine if you have:

  • symptoms of COVID-19

  • COVID-19

  • another disease

  • received another vaccine in the past 14 days


Talk with your doctor or health care provider before if the person getting the vaccine:

  • is pregnant or breastfeeding

  • has an autoimmune condition

  • is immunocompromised due to disease or treatment

  • has had severe allergic reactions to vaccinations before


You also must have a health card in Canada (expired ones are allowed). Once you have read the conditions and chose which one you want, you can start to book. If it's harder to book it online, you can book using your phone by calling the call center: 1-833-943-3900


Step-by-Step Guide to Booking an Appointment


Step one: Go to the website https://covid-19.ontario.ca/covid-19-vaccine-booking-support or your province's website - they all have similar steps.


Step two: Either press start booking (recommended) or find a nearby pharmacy.


Step three: Fill out all your information and press get results to check if you’re eligible.


Step four: After that, either the provincial online booking system or pharmacy ( you may choose depending on what type of vaccine if necessary, but otherwise, the provincial online booking system is more accessible and conventional)


Step five: Read and agree to the terms.


Step six: Fill out all the personal information and choose a suitable location, date, and time.


Step seven: You will then receive an email with all the details to keep with you when getting your vaccine or print out that email. Make sure to bring your health card, details of the booking, and wear a loose tee shirt if possible to make the vaccine process simpler. Keep the arm your getting the vaccine on loose when getting the vaccine inserted. It's nice to take the vaccine on your non-dominant arm since you won't be working too much. Lastly, follow masking and physical distancing guidelines at the facilities.


Step eight: If needed to cancel, go to the website and cancel from there, or call the call center.


That's it! It was that easy! Remember to stretch your arm a little after getting your vaccine; it helps make sure your arm isn't highly stiff. You just protected yourself and others around you in less than 1 hour! Make sure to follow the same protocols as you would, such as wearing a mask in public and washing hands regularly if you only got one dose. You need to get fully vaccinated to be highly immune. Your doctor/booking center recommends the second vaccine interval time to you, although the recommended wait time is 21–28 days (3–4 weeks) between COVID-19 vaccines. Prioritization goes towards older individuals. Therefore, you may not be able to get your second vaccine in 3-4 weeks right now; however, you can speak to the call center to make sure.


Side Effects


After getting the vaccine, you may experience a few different types of side effects.


Common side effects


These are normal side effects, as outlined by the CDC:


  • redness, soreness, or swelling on the arm where you got the shot

  • tiredness

  • headache

  • muscle and joint pain

  • chills

  • mild fever


Severe side effects


The CDC urges you to call the doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects do occur (if extreme then call 911):


  • hives

  • swelling of the face or mouth

  • trouble breathing

  • or very pale colour and severe drowsiness

  • high fever (over 40°C)

  • convulsions or seizures

  • other painful symptoms, such as numbness


Remedies


Common side effects are supposed to go away in a few days. If they don't, call your doctor; better safe than sorry! If you do suffer any of these common side effects, you're in luck. I have a few ways to deal with them. Firstly, if the pain is too much, try Advil or Tylenol (do not exceed the limit) as they help a lot with headaches and fever. Next, if your arm where you got the needle is in pain or red, try putting a cold, damp paper towel to ease the pain. Drink tons of water/liquids. Take breaks and rest well. Going to sleep early if you have school or work because vaccines may cause you to be more tired than expected, so more sleep is necessary. Stretch your arm slowly, increasing the amount of movement you can do. If you have a painful rash, you can take pain medication like acetaminophen or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Lastly, practicing meditation, breathing, stress reduction, or yoga helps decrease stress levels.


***Disclaimer: everyone is different; the things that may work for some people may not work with you. Before taking any medication, it would be wise to talk to a doctor or telehealth who can help make sure that it's safe for you. Telehealth: +1 866-797-0000. This is part of my experience, research I have done, techniques that work for many people, and things I wished I knew before. Please do what feels best for your body and health!


Last Note


The vaccine is fantastic, and it helps tremendously. Looking at the different vaccines available, you may notice that they all have different efficacy rates. You may wonder why I should take a vaccine that is 65% effective and not 95%? An article from the NPR explains this well. Firstly, not everyone will get one type of vaccine, especially if we want a change quicker. Secondly, even if it's any percentage, it still makes you stronger. Lastly, it helps reduce the risk depending on how significant the rate is. It may not seem that much right now but think about how many total covid cases are there? There are approximately 177M cases as of now and 3.83M deaths. With 50% efficacy, you reduce the risk by half, reducing 89M and 1.9M deaths (rounded). Seeing the comparison of the last and new results, you can see it still makes a huge impact. Efficiency rates are all performed in different times and circumstances which is also something to take under consideration.


Vaccine efficacy (Jesse Zhang/NPR).


When they tested Johnson & Johnson vaccine in their trials, the case rates were higher. The virus had a different variant (variants that are more likely to get participants infected), unlike when they tested Pfizer and Moderna. Considering the dangerous variant, the time Johnson & Johnson vaccine was tested, and the circumstances it was under, it did surprisingly well to protect more than half the people vaccinated. So we can't make reliable comparisons since each of the vaccines got tested in different circumstances. Another thing to keep in mind is that efficacy rates are not the only factor in choosing a vaccine; the wish with these vaccines is not to eliminate covid but to revoke the power that covid has of seriously harming someone's health. Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson's vaccines help covid feel more like a cold than something you can get hospitalized for. All the vaccines that are approved have been 100% successful in preventing hospitalization and death, so in the end, they are all excellent options.


Watch this video from Vox for more information on why comparing vaccines is misleading!


The real question isn't which vaccine is the best; it's what's better at protecting everyone's health, and the answer is all. So 65%-95% efficiency is a fantastic thing to have, so we should take advantage of this great opportunity. Right now, we need to take the approved vaccine available to us, trust each other, stay safe, push through and stay strong. It's hard, but together it's not impossible!



Article Author: Preet Kaur Chohan

Article Editors: Victoria Huang, Valerie Shirobokov