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Immunization

COVID-19 vaccines – protein-based

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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Immunization protects you from dis​ease.
​​Get protected, get immunized.

  • Vaccines make your immune system stronger. They build antibodies to help prevent diseases.
  • Immunization is safe. It's much safer to get immunized than to get this disease.​​
​​ ​​

What are COVID-19 vaccines?

COVID-19 vaccines protect against the SARS-CoV-2 virus (also known as COVID-19). The virus causes an infection in the lungs and airways and is a type of respiratory illness. In some cases, the infection can cause problems with other organs or other parts of the body. Go to ahs.ca/covid to learn more about COVID-19.

The following COVID-19 vaccines are approved for use in Canada:

  • mRNA vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) and Moderna (SpikeVax)
  • viral vector-based vaccines: AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria)/COVISHIELD and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
  • protein-based vaccine: Novavax (Nuvaxovid)
  • plant-based vaccine: Medicago (Covifenz)

​The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen, and Novavax vaccines are available in Alberta.

Who should get the protein-based COVID-19 vaccine?

Everyone is at risk of COVID-19. You can get a protein-based COVID-19 vaccine if you’re age 18 years or older and you can’t have or don’t want an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines are free.

Do I need a vaccine if I’ve already had COVID-19?

If you’ve already had COVID-19, it’s not yet known how long your protection will last or how much protection you’ll have against variants. It’s important to get a COVID-19 vaccine even ​if you’ve already had the virus.

The vaccine may give you better protection if you wait a while after having COVID-19 and then get a vaccine. How long to wait depends on your health history and whether or not you’ve already had doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

If you’ve had COVID-19 in the past 90 days, check with your healthcare provider about when to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

How well do COVID-19 vaccines work?

How well the vaccines work against COVID-19 is different for each variant. COVID-19 vaccines are the best way to lower your risk of getting COVID-19 or getting very sick from it.

The mRNA vaccines give the best protection. The protein-based vaccine gives more protection than the viral vector-based vaccines. However, all the vaccines work very well to lower your risk of getting seriously ill and needing to be in the hospital.

Even if you’ve had a COVID-19 vaccine, it’s still important to follow public health measures to prevent the virus from spreading. Go to ahs.ca/covid for the most up-to-date information.

How many doses of the protein-based COVID-19 vaccine do I need?

Primary series​​​

You need at least 2 doses of the protein-based COVID-19 vaccine to be considered fully immunized. These doses are called your primary series.

For some people, 2 doses may not give enough protection. You may need a third dose to complete your primary series if you have a health problem that weakens your immune system. For example:

  • You’ve had or will have an organ or stem cell transplant.
  • You have kidney disease and need dialysis.
  • You have acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
  • You take certain medicines that weaken your immune system.

Studies have shown that a third dose may provide better protection for adults with a weak immune system.

Booster doses​​​

If you are age 18 years or older, you should get an extra (booster) dose 5 months after your primary series. A booster dose will give you more protection.

A second booster dose is recommended for some people who are at high risk of serious disease. This will provide better and longer protection. You can get a second booster dose if it has been at least 5 months since your first booster dose and you:

  • are age 70 years or older
  • live in a seniors living facility
  • are Indigenous and are age 65 years or older

Go​ to alberta.ca/covid19-vaccine to book an appointment for your booster dose.

Doses for travel​​​

If you are travelling outside of Canada, you may be able to get additional doses. This is only if your destination requires you to have a certain COVID-19 vaccine series or a dose within a certain time.

Can I get the protein-based COVID-19 vaccine if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?

Yes, you can get a protein-based COVID-19 vaccine if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. However, research shows that mRNA vaccines are the safest type of COVID-19 vaccines to get during pregnancy. There is more to learn about getting a protein-based COVID-19 vaccine when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

When you’re pregnant, you have a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine lowers your risk of getting seriously ill from the virus.

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it is recommended that you talk to your healthcare provider before getting a protein-based COVID-19 vaccine.

Where can I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Go to ahs.ca/covidvaccine to find out where and when you can get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Are there side effects from the protein-based COVID-19 vaccine?

There can be side effects from the protein-based COVID-19 vaccine, but they tend to be mild and go away in a few days. Side effects may include:

  • redness, swelling, or feeling sore where you had the needle
  • feeling tired, unwell, or have a headache
  • a fever or chills
  • body aches, sore joints, or pain in your legs or arms
  • feeling sick to your stomach (nausea) or vomiting (throwing up)

Current information shows that you’re more likely to have these side effects after your second dose of the protein-based vaccine. Research continues to find out more about the risk of side effects after additional doses.

It’s important to stay at the clinic for 15 minutes after your vaccine. Some people may have a rare but serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. If anaphylaxis happens, you’ll get medicine to treat the symptoms.

It’s rare to have a serious side effect. Call Health Link at 811 to report any serious or unusual side effects.

What rare events have been reported after getting the protein-based COVID-19 vaccine?

There have been very rare reports of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining around the heart) shortly after getting the protein-based vaccine. The reported cases were mild and got better with treatment. It’s still not known if these events were caused by the vaccine, and research is happening to learn more about the risk of these rare events after getting the protein-based vaccine.

The inflammation can cause shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, or a very fast or abnormal heart rate. Get medical help right away if you have any of these symptoms.

It’s not known if having a history of myocarditis or pericarditis puts you at higher risk of having these rare events after a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your doctor before you get a dose of COVID-19 vaccine if:

  • You had myocarditis or pericarditis within 6 weeks of getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • You have a history of myocarditis or pericarditis, and you have questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Your risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 is much higher than your risk of having a rare event after these vaccines. Go to COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

How can I manage side effects?

To help with soreness and swelling, put a cool, wet cloth over the area where you had the needle.

There is medicine to help with a fever or pain. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you’re not sure what medicine or dose to take. Follow the directions on the package.

Some people with health problems, such as a weak immune system, must call their doctor if they get a fever. If you’ve been told to do this, call your doctor even if you think the fever is from the vaccine.

What vaccine will I get for my primary series?

You will get an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine for your primary series. If you can’t get or don’t want this type of vaccine, you can get the protein-based vaccine or a viral vector-based vaccine if you’re age 18 years or older.

Usually you get the same vaccine for all your doses. If your first-dose vaccine isn’t available or you can’t have it, you can get a different COVID-19 vaccine for your next dose.

Whichever vaccine you get to complete your primary series protects you against COVID-19.

Talk to your healthcare provider about which vaccine is best for you.

Go to ahs.ca/seconddose for more information.

What vaccine will I get for my booster or additional dose?

You will get an mRNA vaccine for any booster or additional doses. If you can’t get or don’t want an mRNA vaccine, you can get the protein-based vaccine ​if you are age 18 years or older.

The mRNA vaccines are licensed for first booster doses for people age 18 years or older who completed their primary series at least 6 months ago.

In other cases, the vaccine isn’t licensed for more than 2 doses. But vaccine experts support this in certain situations. This is called “off-label use.”

Getting more than 2 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine is off-label use if:

  • You are age 5 to 17 years.
  • You get a third dose sooner than 6 months after your second dose.
  • You get a fourth or fifth dose.
  • You get the protein-based or a viral vector-based vaccine as a third dose, booster dose, or additional dose.

Talk to your healthcare provider about which vaccine you can get and when to have your doses.

What vaccine is recommended for people with a weak immune system?

Research has shown mRNA vaccines provide the best protection for people with a weak immune system. Talk to your healthcare provider about which vaccine is best for you.

What if I had or am getting another type of vaccine?

You can get any vaccine at the same time as, any time before, or any time after the protein-based COVID-19 vaccine.

Who should not get the protein-based COVID-19 vaccine?

You may not be able to get the protein-based COVID-19 vaccine if you:

  • have an allergy to any part of the vaccine
  • had a severe (serious) or unusual side effect after this vaccine or one like it
  • are under age 18 years

Always tell your healthcare provider if you have allergies or if you've had a side effect from a vaccine in the past.

Check with your healthcare provider before you get the protein-based​ COVID-19 vaccine if you have had COVID-19 or have been treated for COVID-19 in the last 90 days.

Be sure to talk to your doctor before you get the protein-based COVID-19 vaccine if you:

  • have a weak immune system (because of a medicine you take or a health problem)
  • have an autoimmune disorder (like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus)
  • have had a stem cell or organ transplant
  • have a history of myocarditis or pericarditis within 6 weeks of getting a dose of COVID-19 vaccine

Facts about COVID-19

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus that’s caused a worldwide pandemic. The virus causes an infection in the lungs and airways and is a type of respiratory illness. Symptoms may include:

  • a fever
  • a cough
  • shortness of breath
  • a sore throat
  • a runny nose
  • loss of sense of smell or taste

Most people have only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. But if you’re an older adult or have other health problems, you can get very sick and may need care in a hospital. In serious cases, COVID-19 can cause a type of lung infection called pneumonia. Pneumonia makes it hard to breathe without help and can even lead to death.

Go to COVID-19: How to manage symptoms for a list of all symptoms that may be related to COVID-19.

How does it spread?

COVID-19 spreads:

  • when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or talks
  • if you breathe in the virus
  • if you touch something that has the virus on it (like hands or a doorknob) then touch your eyes, mouth, or nose

It’s important to know that you and others can spread COVID-19 before symptoms start.

Go to ahs.ca/covid to find out more.

How can I prevent COVID-19 from spreading?

To prevent COVID-19 from spreading:

  • get immunized
  • wash your hands with warm water and soap or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer often
  • don’t touch your face, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
  • cover your cough or sneeze into your arm or a tissue, not your hand
  • stay home when you’re sick
  • avoid close contact with people who are sick

If you think you’ve had contact with COVID-19 or have symptoms, take the COVID-19 Self-Assessment at ahs.ca/covidscreen.

More information

Current as of: May 12, 2022

Author: Provincial Immunization Program, Alberta Health Services