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XBB Covid-19 booster vaccine safe, effective way to avoid getting sick this virus season, says pharmacist

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek, like thousands of other Calgarians, received her booster Covid-19 and flu vaccinations for the start of the respiratory virus season on Friday.

Mayor Gondek, who received the Moderna version of the new XBB.1.5 vaccination to protect against the currently circulating strain of Covid-19, said she had no hesitation at all in getting her shot.

“As a matter of fact, this year, I also got the shingles vaccine. It is a series of two vaccinations—I’ve had the first one, I’ll go back for my second one in a few months here. Today, I’m getting Covid and flu shots together, which everyone can do and should do.”

Amyn Kanjee, a pharmacist with The Medicine Shoppe and a registered member of the Alberta College of Pharmacy, said that the new version of the Covid-19 booster is safe and effective.

“Everything that we know and everything we’ve read from Health Canada, the XBB Moderna vaccine, which was released last week, is very, very safe. We’re not seeing any side effects. We’re not seeing any issues,” he said.

“In fact, we’ve had an overwhelming response from a lot of patients who have come in to get their vaccinations, and I think the timing is ideal. When you’re getting your flu shot—this is the annual flu season—it’s really, really important to make sure you also get your COVID vaccine.”

He said that as the number of Calgarians who have become infected from respiratory viruses like Covid-19 and the flu, taking vaccines for both was a way to protect against getting sick, but also from spreading diseases to vulnerable people who cannot get their vaccinations.

“People are going to be indoors, people are traveling, people are going to get together as families and so it’s really, really important to make sure that we’re all doing what we can to protect the population.”

Talk to medical professionals

Mayor Gondek encouraged everyone to take time to talk to pharmacists like Kanjee, their doctor, and other health care experts about vaccination.

“You should rely on the information that comes from Health Canada and Alberta Health Services. These are all great resources,” she said.

“It is important to make sure that you get vaccinated if you are able to. We understand that certain folks can’t because they have issues that would interfere with a vaccination, and that’s totally understandable, but if you are able to get one you absolutely should.”

She said that her personal reason for getting the shot on Oct. 20 was because as a public official, she spends a lot of time around other people and doesn’t want to get them sick.

“I think it’s an important message to send to the public that vaccinations are a very safe option to keep yourself and your loved ones safe and protected,” she said.

“I think it’s absolutely my responsibility to make sure that I am getting vaccinated so that I can prevent the spread of illness to others.”

Kanjee, for himself he said, was also going to be getting his shot as soon as he could for a similar reason.

“I’m planning to get my own vaccine as well too, because I know that it keeps me safe. Especially because I’m exposed to so many patients as well.”

Moderna XBB.1.5 Covid-19 vaccination vials at The Medicine Shoppe in Calgary on Friday, October 20, 2023. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Don’t be afraid of minor side-effects, it’s a sign you’re healthy

Kanjee said that it’s entirely normal for everyone to have minor side-effects from taking vaccinations, and that it’s actually a sign that they’re working to protect patients.

“Obviously, some people have had side effects and so they’re really reluctant to get vaccines. But those side effects are rare, and we haven’t seen very many severe side effects,” he said.

“Vaccinations do unfortunately make you a little bit sick for a day or so – like a sore arm, maybe a little bit of fatigue, malaise, muscle pain. Those are all to be expected, but I think if we keep things in perspective, getting COVID is obviously much worse than the vaccine and the side effect of the vaccine.”

He said that an example of a common complaint from taking vaccinations is from women who say they’ve gotten swollen lymph nodes afterwards.

“Well, that’s what you want. You know that your immune system is actually working to produce the antibodies that’s required, so it’s not a bad thing,” Kanjee said.

“Every person is very different as far as how they react to the vaccine, so we have to make sure that they’re staying in the pharmacy for 15 minutes, they’re being monitored before they go home.”

He said that as a pharmacist, if there was any evidence that the vaccinations were dangerous for patients he wouldn’t be administering them.

According to data collected by Health Canada up to Sept. 10, 2023, 32,467,086 people in Canada have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, with 24,401,949 people having received their entire primary series of vaccination. A total of 99,034,764 doses of Covid-19 vaccinations and boosters have been administered nationwide.

The percentage of individuals who have taken at least a single dose of vaccination is highest in Newfoundland and Labrador at 96.1 per cent, and lowest in Alberta with 79.7 percent.

Adverse reactions have been rare, with 11,231—or 0.11 per cent of all vaccinations—were reported as having severe side effects.

A total of 455 deaths have been reported to Health Canada as having been caused by Covid-19 vaccination in Canada. Those cases which when investigated, found that only four had a causal association with vaccination, with the majority of cases reporting having no causal connection or insufficient evidence to show a causal connection.

The full list of clinical trials, and ingredients used in Covid-19 vaccines, can be found at www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/covid19-industry/drugs-vaccines-treatments/list-authorized-trials.html.