Public Health committed to monitoring vaccine safety

It has been almost 20 months since the start of the pandemic in Nova Scotia.

During this time, we have witnessed the resiliency of Nova Scotians, the commitment of our health care workers, the strength of our health care system and the successful implementation of the largest vaccination program in our history.

However, these many months have not been without challenges. Misinformation spread by those who ignore the science on vaccination and challenge our system with unfounded claims creates unnecessary fear. This can have negative and damaging impacts on individuals and on our collective pandemic response.

Recent media coverage on the reporting of adverse events following immunization would have you believe that our health care providers are ill-equipped to recognize, manage or report these reactions.

This is not the case.

Vaccines save millions of lives each year. Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is one of the single most important steps you can take to protect yourself and others from this virus. The science is clear: the benefits far outweigh any risk associated with COVID-19 vaccines. However, no vaccine is 100 percent effective and vaccines, like almost all medical treatments, have some risk of an adverse event.

All vaccines in Canada are highly regulated and monitored. This includes COVID-19 vaccines. Clinical trials and real-world use of these vaccines show that they are safe and effective. We know this to be true because we, like other jurisdictions, share information with the Government of Canada, who in turn share it with the international community monitoring vaccine safety.

In Nova Scotia, healthcare providers who suspect that a patient has experienced a serious or unusual reaction to a vaccine are legally required to report it to public health.

Throughout the pandemic, health care providers have received regular communication on the ever-evolving clinical and public health information on the COVID-19 virus and our provincial response. This includes information on COVID-19 vaccines, expected adverse events following immunization and what, how and where to report these events.

We fully understand the pressures healthcare providers are under. The uncertainty of the pandemic and the concerns of patients can at times be overwhelming. This does not mean that providers will not continue to honour their professional responsibilities.

Nova Scotians should know that our rates for serious adverse events following COVID-19 immunization are low – about seven for every 100,000 given doses. This is consistent with national rates and is much lower than the risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19. We are working on a plan to share data on adverse events with Nova Scotians and hope to be able to share more about that soon.

We remain committed to ensuring ongoing monitoring of vaccine safety, not just for COVID-19 vaccines, but for all vaccines used in the province.

For more information on reported side effects following COVID-19 vaccination in Canada, go to: https://health-infobase.canada.ca/covid-19/vaccine-safety/.

Dr. Robert Strang

Nova Scotia Chief Medical Officer of Health

Dr. Shelley Deeks

Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Health