As outlined in Toronto's COVID Vaccine FAQ, vaccines work by telling our body to create the antibodies that protect us from COVID-19, preparing our immune systems to fight against the disease, without getting us sick. As of now, the government of Canada has approved four vaccines — all of which have been proven to be highly effective at safely preventing severe illness caused by the coronavirus.
If you're set to receive your first vaccine in the upcoming weeks and you're not sure what to expect, here's everything you need to know about preparing for your COVID-19 vaccine.
If You're Eligible, Get an Appointment
You might be feeling some "vaccine imposter syndrome," as though others may be more deserving of a vaccine slot than you are. However, if the government has determined you to be eligible, the best thing you can do for yourself and your community is get protected. If a slot or waitlist opens up, don't hesitate to sign yourself up. The list of eligible groups is being consistently updated on the City of Toronto website, so be sure to follow the news and check the site regularly for updates.
Some folks may be tempted to compare efficacy rates between the various approved vaccines on the market in Canada and subsequently wait until the one with the highest rate becomes available. The most important thing to keep in mind is that every single shot available to Canadians is effective at preventing severe cases of COVID-19. Dr. Sumon Chalrabarti, an infectious disease specialist in Mississauga, told the Canadian Press that "of the thousands of participants in trials for the vaccines, not a single person who received a shot died or was hospitalized from COVID-19."
The COVID-19 vaccine will be administered to your upper arm in the deltoid muscle, so make sure you don't slow down the process by having to roll up long-sleeve layers. Wear a short sleeved shirt, or even a "cold-shoulder" style top inspired by Dolly Parton's vaccine-day outfit, in order to make things easier for yourself and the medical staff giving you your shot. Play it safe and dress in plenty of layers — many vaccination sites, such as your local pharmacy, a large stadium, or even just your typical doctor's office, can be notoriously chilly places to wait in line.
Make a Post-Vaccine Self-Care Plan
Avoid unnecessary stress by preparing a post-vaccine self-care plan in advance. Knowing that you have groceries stocked-up, over-the-counter pain medication on hand, and have already cancelled any plans for intense exercise will allow you to relax in the days following your vaccination. Doctors advise against "pre-medicating" with over-the-counter medication prior to receiving the vaccine, as doing so can inhibit the body's ability to create an effective antibody response. However, it is safe to manage symptoms with these medications if you experience some of the common mild side effects associated with the various COVID-19 vaccines, such as swelling at the injection site and flu-like symptoms.
Health Canada notes that people who are anxious about vaccines may experience a set of stress-induced symptoms including lightheadedness, loss of sensation in the face or hands, rapid breathing, and overactive sweating. Recognizing and accepting that you are prone to vaccine-related anxiety will help you distinguish between your body's stress response and true side effects of the vaccine, which have been authorized for use due to their proven safety and effectiveness at preventing COVID-19.
On the day of your vaccine, inform the medical staff administering your vaccination that you experience vaccine induced-anxiety, as it may be possible to arrange for you to lay down during the shot, in order to prevent injury from fainting. Deep breathing and visualization techniques can be very effective at reducing stress in the moment — try counting to ten and picturing yourself in your happy place, perhaps doing an activity that can only be possible in a post-covid world, in order to motivate yourself.
Continue To Practice Pandemic Safety
After getting vaccinated you'll be given either a paper or electronic record, which you should convey to your healthcare provider. Be sure to wait at least 28 days after your COVID-19 vaccination until receiving any other vaccines. Finally, until the majority of Canadians are vaccinated, public health experts recommend that you continue to keep a distance from those who are not part of your household, wash your hands frequently, stay home when you're sick, and wear a mask in indoor public places, and outdoors where social distancing is not possible.