With the approval and deployment of two COVID-19 vaccines in Canada, the conversation around vaccine safety has once again come to the forefront.  “Is it safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine?” is a question I’ve been hearing a lot of lately, especially in the workplace, and I understand why.  Although vaccines have existed for over 200 years, there is a persistent mistrust and fear of vaccines that continues to this day.

In order to reduce the fear and anxiety surrounding the COVID-19 vaccination, I’ve outlined below some information to help you and your team make the best decision regarding vaccinations, and to dispel any common misconceptions or misinformation. My hope is that you and your team can review this information to make the most informed decision possible when choosing to receive a vaccine or not.

Why is there a fear of vaccines?

First, let’s consider some of the reasons people consider vaccines to be unsafe. 

One of the most common misconceptions of vaccines is that they cause autism in children.  The persistent myth that vaccines cause autism was rooted in a study that was later disproved, yet it still remains a steadfast argument used by people against childhood vaccinations.  For this reason I encourage you to stay informed using the most up-to-date literature and resources.

Xenophobia, otherwise known as fear of the unknown, is another reason why some people may be hesitant to receive a vaccine.  While vaccines go through a rigorous approval process, some people cite potential side effects or adverse long-term effects as a reason for disliking vaccines.  Many common vaccines, such as the Polio vaccine, have been around for decades, and their long-term effects have been studied throughout the years. 

Another common fear when it comes to vaccines is having a fear of needles.  One study found that 3.5% to 10% of the general population has a fear of needles.  If this is the case for you, I recommend seeking professional support to help alleviate any stress or anxiety associated with this fear. 

Are vaccines harmful?

Generally speaking, medical professionals agree that vaccines are safe.  If you hear otherwise, I recommend consulting your doctor or other legitimate health resources and agencies to ensure you are not being intentionally or unintentionally misinformed.

It’s also important to know that vaccines given in Canada must be determined to be safe and effective by Health Canada prior to being approved for use.  To learn about what this approval process entails, I encourage you to visit this website  

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

Another common concern I’m hearing lately is whether or not the COVID-19 vaccine is safe, primarily because of how quickly it was developed.  While it’s true that new vaccines typically take years to develop, the COVID-19 vaccine was developed quickly due to a number of reasons.  For a list of these reasons, please visit this website.

When the time comes, choosing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine will be a personal decision, but I encourage you to conduct your own research using legitimate sources in addition to discussing any concerns with your healthcare provider.  You may also reach out to your Employee or Student Assistance Program to discuss your concerns with a certified counsellor.

If you’re interested in learning more about vaccinations and the COVID-19 vaccine, I encourage you to refer to these legitimate resources:

Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/prevention-risks/covid-19-vaccine-treatment/vaccine-rollout.html

Regulating vaccines for human use: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/biologics-radiopharmaceuticals-genetic-therapies/activities/fact-sheets/regulation-vaccines-human-canada.html

Deciding to vaccinate: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/vaccination-children.html

Immunization myths: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/pro/programs/immunization/myths.aspx

Interview with an infectious disease specialist on the history of vaccines: https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=2096456