As announced a few weeks ago by the governments of Quebec and Canada, the vaccination campaign for COVID-19 is now underway in Quebec. Work to plan and coordinate the vaccination efforts in First Nations and Inuit communities is currently in progress.

Historical context 

Since the arrival of the Europeans in America, more than 90% of the First Nations population has been decimated by diseases originating outside America. The decline of our populations continued until the turn of the 20th century. From that point forward, vaccination campaigns and improved public health eradicated several diseases that were still decimating First Nations to a much greater extent than the Canadian population. One of the best examples is certainly smallpox, which killed hundreds of thousands of First Nations people in Canada. 

However, some First Nations members are still reluctant to be vaccinated against COVID-19: a consequence of mistrust in the health system and its historical errors. It is for this reason that the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission (FNQLHSSC) is striving to make available to all the First Nations people in Quebec the information they require to make an informed decision while ensuring that the cultural sensitivities of the First Nations are taken into account during the vaccination campaign. 

Information for population

Below, you will find reliable sources of recognized and credible institutions to answer your questions and help you learn more about COVID-19 vaccination. For additional information, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, you will find answers to questions you might have about COVID-19 vaccination. The content will be updated as new questions arise, so feel free to refer to it often.

Any other questions?

Email your questions to, and we will add the information to this section’s content.

As of March 5, 2021, three vaccines have been authorized and are being distributed in Canada: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca. 

What do COVID-19 vaccines contain?

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines contain the messenger RNA (mRNA) of the virus that causes COVID-19. The mRNA gives the body a blueprint to manufacture part of the virus that cannot infect us, but that stimulates the immune system so that it learns to recognize and destroy the COVID-19 virus. These vaccines cannot alter our genetic code. 

The AstraZeneca vaccine is a vaccine based on a harmless viral vector that provides the information needed to produce a COVID-19 virus protein. This activates our immune system so that it learns to recognize and destroy the COVID-19 virus. It is important to note that the virus used in the vaccine is NOT the one that causes COVID-19 and that this is a proven method that has been used for decades in other types of vaccines. 

For more information on vaccine components, refer to the vaccine ingredients section on the Government of Quebec’s web page or view Health Canada’s explanatory video. 

How are COVID-19 vaccines made?

To learn about the steps in the vaccine development process, refer to the government of Quebec’s web page or view Health Canada’s explanatory video.

Are vaccines safe, given how quickly they were developed?

Yes. Canada’s vaccine safety standards are very strict. Only vaccines approved by Health Canada can be used in Canada. Before they are authorized, COVID-19 vaccines are subjected to the same safety standards as other vaccines to ensure that they are safe and effective. In addition, active monitoring for side effects continues throughout vaccine use. 

Was testing done on humans?

Yes, tens of thousands of people took part in clinical trials to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. A team of Health Canada experts conducted a comprehensive review of all the vaccine-related data.

How do vaccines work? How do they act within the body?

To learn how vaccines work, view the government of Quebec’s video clip (in French).

Does the vaccine provide immunity against the disease or simply diminish the symptoms?

The vaccine is designed to prevent COVID-19 by providing immunity against the disease. It is more than 90% effective in preventing the disease, and therefore, protects against COVID-19.

Can an mRNA vaccine alter our genetic code?

No, the vaccine cannot alter our genetic code. The vaccine contains instructions to manufacture part of the virus that cannot infect us, but that stimulates the immune system. The body therefore produces antibodies that will allow us to fight the infection if we come into contact with the COVID-19 virus in the future.

Is it a live vaccine?

No, the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines are not live vaccines. Since they do not contain the COVID19 virus, they cannot cause infection or COVID-19. 

Why are two doses necessary?

Clinical studies showed that the vaccine’s long-term efficacy was greater after the second dose, which is why two doses are given. The second dose allows the immune system to continue producing long-lasting COVID-19 antibodies. Pfizer/BioNTech recommends an interval of 21 days between doses, and Moderna suggests an interval of 28 days. However, it is possible to postpone the second dose a bit.

How long does it take for the vaccine to be effective?

Once administered, a vaccine takes an average of 10 to 14 days to take effect. This period may be longer for people whose immune systems are weakened by age or disease. 

Who can get a COVID-19 vaccine?

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is currently authorized for people 12 years of age and older, while the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines are authorized for people 18 years of age and older. Currently, the Comité sur l’immunisation du Québec recommends the administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine in people 45 years of age and over due to cases of blood clots following administration of this product recently being detected (approximately 1 case per 100,000 doses). 

Unless otherwise advised by a health professional, the vaccination is not recommended for: 

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women. 
  • Immunosuppressed people (chemotherapy or autoimmune disease). 
  • Children and adolescents under 12 years of age (for the Pfizer vaccine) or 18 years of age (for Moderna and AstraZeneca). 

Vaccination for these groups will be determined on the basis of studies on vaccine safety and efficacy currently underway. 

What are the risks associated with vaccination?

Whether real or imagined, the risks associated with vaccines worry people a great deal. In fact, many people are more concerned about the risks associated with vaccines than about the risks associated with the diseases that vaccines are designed to prevent. Yet, research has proven that the serious risks associated with vaccines are much rarer than those related to the diseases. Vaccination results in fewer people suffering from vaccine-preventable diseases, and the consequences of these diseases are less common within the population.

What are the possible side effects?

Side effects are more common after the second dose and are generally short-lived (from one to two days at most). The main possible side effects are:

  • Pain at the injection site
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Chills
  • Mild fever

There are some rare cases of people who have had an allergic reaction to the vaccine and were immediately treated by medical staff. Other vaccines can also cause allergic reactions in some people. That is why the medical staff who administer the vaccine are trained to respond appropriately and quickly in the event of an adverse reaction.

Cases of thrombosis following administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine are very rare, i.e. approximately 1 per 100,000 doses administered. In the current context of the pandemic, the benefits of this vaccine outweigh the risks associated with COVID-19. 

Can people with moderate or severe allergies to specific products, including those who use an EpiPen®, get vaccinated?

Yes, if the allergies in question do not involve any of the vaccine components, the person can safely get the vaccine.

With regard to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the contraindications related to allergies pertain to people who had an allergic reaction after getting a previous dose of these vaccines or a product with an identical component, namely polyethylene glycol (PEG). No vaccine available in Quebec contains polyethylene glycol, except for the COVID-19 vaccines.

Does getting the flu or pneumonia vaccine protect against COVID-19?

No, the flu and pneumonia vaccines do not protect against COVID-19. For now, only the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are effective against COVID-19.

Can people with comorbidities, chronic diseases or specific medical conditions (e.g., transplant, pacemaker) get vaccinated?

Yes, the authorized vaccines are just as safe and effective in people with chronic diseases, such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure and lung disease. It is recommended that immunosuppressed people, such as transplant patients or those who received specific cancer treatment, discuss their condition with a healthcare professional.

Can a person with autoimmune disease get vaccinated?

There is currently little data on vaccination for people with autoimmune disease. Discussing the issue of vaccination with a healthcare professional, such as the attending physician, is encouraged.

To what extent is vaccination effective against COVID-19?

According to the clinical trial data, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have a 94% to 95% efficacy rate. However, just like any other drugs, no vaccine is 100% effective. A vaccine’s efficacy depends on several factors and can vary from one person to the next, according to age, state of health, etc. Despite this, vaccination remains one of the most effective means in the healthcare field of protecting against viruses.

After getting vaccinated, how long does immunity against COVID-19 last?

There is currently no conclusive data on the medium- or long-term efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines authorized by Health Canada, but studies on the subject are underway.

Is it possible to get or transmit COVID-19 even after getting vaccinated?

Although COVID-19 vaccines protect against the disease, it is still not clear whether people who are vaccinated can still get COVID-19 or spread it even if they are asymptomatic. No vaccine is 100% effective.

Is there a difference between the efficacy of the different types of vaccines?

According to the clinical trial data, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are comparable in terms of efficacy. Both vaccines are more than 90% effective.

Is it possible to receive one dose of the Moderna vaccine and one dose of the Pfizer vaccine?

For now, it is recommended that people receive the first and second dose of the same vaccine, since there is still no data to prove that it is effective to receive a different vaccine for the second dose.

Is a single vaccine dose enough to protect against COVID-19?

There is little data on protection after a single dose. For now, it is recommended that people get two doses to be protected against COVID-19.

If the virus mutates, will the vaccine remain as effective against new strains of the COVID-19 virus?

Viral mutations are normal. This phenomenon occurs as people develop immunity, after becoming infected or after getting vaccinated. The virus changes in an attempt to survive. Studies have shown that COVID-19 vaccines continue to provide protection against known variants. Since there is little data available to date, it is however important to keep public health measures in place despite vaccination. 

Will I need a vaccine every year, like for the flu?

For the time being, there are not enough mutations in this coronavirus for a new vaccine to be necessary, but there is a possibility that it will become necessary in the longer term. 

Will I have to continue wearing a mask or face covering, even after getting vaccinated?

Yes, the public health guidelines must be observed before, during and after vaccination against COVID-19 since the virus is still circulating. This will continue until full vaccination has been achieved for the vast majority of the population. 

In Quebec, vaccination is being planned in accordance with the Government of Quebec’s priority groups for vaccination strategy and, for the communities, this strategy will be coordinated by the CISSSs and the CIUSSSs, in collaboration with the communities and organizations involved. 

When will First Nations communities get vaccinated?

In accordance with the Government of Quebec’s priority groups for vaccination strategy, First Nations communities are part of priority 4. Given the remote geographic location, the high proportion of people with chronic health problems, and the increased number of outbreaks in various communities, a number of screening clinics were rolled out, and Indigenous communities have received doses of vaccines to immunize the entire eligible population. 

Is someone living with elderly people over 65 years of age or people at risk a priority for vaccination?

Priority vaccination is recommended for people with a higher risk of complications from COVID‑19, namely people 70 years of age and over who live in residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs) or in retirement residences. Once the vaccine is available for a given community, the entire eligible population and the staff working at those facilities will likely receive the vaccine.

Is it necessary to take a COVID test and get a negative test result before getting vaccinated?

No, it’s not necessary to take a COVID test and get a negative test result before getting vaccinated. However, people who have tested positive for COVID-19 must remain isolated and stay away from vaccination clinics to avoid infecting others. Once their isolation period is over, they can get vaccinated.

Why is the Moderna vaccine advocated for Indigenous people?

Given the limitations related to transport logistics for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, including the need for the vaccine to be kept frozen at -70 degrees Celsius until use, it was determined that the communities would receive the Moderna vaccine, which involves fewer issues in that regard and is therefore simpler to distribute to specific locations, including some Indigenous communities.

Does a certain vaccination percentage need to be achieved for the community to be effectively protected?

For now, the goal for immunization coverage is at least 70%, which means that, in a community of 1,500 residents, approximately 1,050 people should be vaccinated.

However, developing immunity to the virus won’t happen overnight. Until it does, the entire population has to continue washing their hands, staying at home if they’re sick, following physical distancing guidelines, wearing a face covering when necessary, practising cough etiquette and thoroughly disinfecting surfaces.

Will vaccination be mandatory?

No province has announced that it will make vaccination mandatory. However, it is likely that some countries will require vaccination to allow travelers to visit without the need for quarantine. 

Where can I get vaccinated? How should I proceed?

The vaccination site has been determined according to the facilities available in each community. Contact your local community health centre or nursing station for information on the subject.  

If I’ve already had COVID-19, do I need to get vaccinated?

It is recommended that even those who have already had COVID-19 get vaccinated. Immunity, namely the fact of being protected against the virus after having had COVID-19, can vary from one person to the next. It is therefore possible for someone who has already had COVID‑19 to get reinfected by the virus.

Can a person who tests positive for COVID-19 still get vaccinated?

A person can be vaccinated as soon as his or her isolation period is over. The waiting time helps prevent a contagious person from showing up at a vaccination site.

Do I have to take measures to get the second vaccine dose myself?

When the second dose is available, you will be recontacted.

If I get COVID-19 after receiving the first vaccine dose, can I still get the second dose?

Since it takes several days for the vaccine to become effective, it is possible for a person to become infected by the virus after the administration of the first dose. It is nevertheless recommended that a second dose be administered as prescribed once the person’s isolation period is over.

Can a community offer vaccination to all of its residents, including those who are members of another nation or who are not Indigenous?

Discussions will have to take place between the community and the Quebec health network in order to assess this possibility. To limit the risk of contagion, it is preferable that all residents and workers in a community receive the vaccine, whether or not they are First Nations members.

Where can First Nations members living outside their community or in urban areas get vaccinated?

Agreements have been made between different nations to offer vaccination in urban areas. Indigenous organizations and regional public health departments have mobilized to offer vaccination to First Nations in urban areas. It is recommended that you contact your community or the Native Friendship Centre directly for information that applies to your situation. 

I am text block. Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Series of virtual conferences on vaccination

Webinar 1 – Collective immunity: How can vaccines protect our population?

Webinar 2 – Vaccination campaign: When will the First Nations in Quebec be vaccinated?

Webinar 3 – Modern medicine and traditional approaches: What does ancestral knowledge offer us in the current context?

Testimonies from vaccinated First Nations individuals