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COVID-19 Vaccination Information

January 20, 2021

Happy New Year,

Let’s talk about the COVID-19 vaccine.  I know there are many questions such as, how do I know it’s safe, or, how soon can I get it, so I’ve created a quick fact sheet. As always, if you have any questions, reach out to me and if I don’t have the answer, I will help you find it. I encourage you to read and familiarize yourself with relevant information but please remember to use reliable resources such as Health Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada, Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA), NS Government, CDC, WHO, NACI, and Immunize Canada.

As we are all aware, misinformation can spread quickly via social media.  This is especially true with COVID-19 since the information changes rapidly as we learn more about the virus each day.  When you read new information, take note of the following:

- Where is the information coming from? Is it a verified source? Conduct a Google Search to check validity. Has the information been altered just to make a better headline?
- Who is sharing it? Is the original poster someone with education/credentials in the field they are speaking about?
- When was it published? Is it the most up-to-date information?

These times we’re in can be times of hope, fear, and an overwhelming amount of information. If you need help to process or understand any of the information, have your own questions, or need support, please reach out! You can also find more on the Facebook group: AFN Community Health or the website


Chelsea Sawyer
Community Health Nurse
Acadia First Nation

Resource list

Really great video from an Indigenous Physician from Manitoba discussing the Moderna vaccine:

Nova Scotia Vaccine Info:

Health Canada (main page for vaccine updates):

About Pfizer:

About Moderna:

mRNA Vaccines:

Viral Vector-Based Vaccines:

Vaccine Safety:

How Vaccines are Developed:

Vaccine Safety:

Nova Scotia Vaccine Information:


What is the COVID-19 vaccine?

There are currently two vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) approved for use against COVID-19 in Canada.  Both vaccines are mRNA vaccines which means they do not contain a live piece of the virus.  Instead, they act as a manual to instruct your body how to create the “spike protein” that is on the surface of the coronavirus. This triggers your body into making antibodies against it, so that if you were to have contact with the coronavirus, you will be able to fight it off. You cannot get COVID-19 from these vaccines.

Moderna overview: This vaccine has been approved for people aged 18 years and older - safety and effectiveness have not yet been established in persons younger than this.  Moderna vaccine was approved on December 23rd, 2020 and is an mRNA vaccine used to prevent COVID-19.  It is given by injection into the muscle in the upper arm, in two doses, at least 28 days apart.  In clinical studies based on 30,000 participants, it was shown to be 94.1% effective in preventing COVID-19 beginning two weeks after the second dose.  As with all vaccines, certain side effects (that pose no health risk) are common, such as pain at the injection site, body chills, fever, and fatigue.  As always, there is a risk of severe reaction, such as allergic, but it is very rare.  All adverse events must be documented and reported.  The trials continue as they include a larger demographic and the company plans to follow participants for a minimum of 2 years after their second dose.

Pfizer overview: This vaccine has been approved for people aged 16 years and older - safety and effectiveness have not yet been established in persons younger than this.  Pfizer vaccine was approved on December 9th, 2020 and is an mRNA vaccine used to prevent COVID-19.  It is given by injection into the muscle in the upper arm, in two doses, at least 21 days apart.  In clinical studies based on 44,000 participants, it was shown to be 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 beginning one week after the second dose.  As with all vaccines, certain side effects (that pose no health risk) are common, such as pain at the injection site, body chills, fever, and fatigue.  As always, there is a risk of severe reaction, such as allergic, but it is very rare.  All adverse events must be documented and reported.  The trials continue as they include a larger demographic and the company plans to follow participants for a minimum of 2 years after their second dose.

Who should get the vaccine?

Everyone is at risk of getting COVID-19, and complications can vary greatly both in severity and duration.  If you are 16 years or older, you will be eligible for a vaccine, which is available at no cost in Canada.  Those who are more likely to come in contact with the virus (front line workers) or those who are at higher risk of complications (long-term care, over the age of 60, underlying health conditions) are especially encouraged to get the vaccine as soon as it is available to them.

Each vaccine has a list of exclusions or contraindications, such as autoimmune disease or anaphylactic allergy, which may deem you ineligible at this time.  Prior to being vaccinated everyone will be screened.  These contraindications/exclusions aren’t necessarily because it is dangerous, but because of lack of data at this time.  This means that as more data is collected and reviewed, more people may become eligible.  For example, the SOGC (Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada) has issued a statement that all pregnant and breastfeeding persons should be offered the vaccine if no other contraindications are present.  This statement can be found on their website: (

When can I get the vaccine?

Unfortunately, we don’t have a specific time frame on when our communities will be receiving vaccines.  The province has posted their vaccination rollout plan on their website at (  This plan was guided by the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations (NACI) based on assessment of risk and vulnerability.  If you fall into one of the risk categories, you may be contacted to schedule your vaccination. Please note that this plan may change as more supply becomes available, or new groups become priority, so stay tuned!

How does the vaccine work?

There are two types of vaccines being developed: mRNA vaccines and viral vector-based vaccines.  There are many other companies with vaccines in development and some are awaiting review and approval by Health Canada.  The two vaccines currently approved for use in Canada are both mRNA vaccines which means they do not contain a live piece of the virus.  Essentially, the vaccines act as an instruction manual to teach our cells how to make copies of the coronavirus spike protein, to trigger an immune response, and begin to create antibodies.  Then, if you are introduced to the real virus, your body is prepared to fight it.  The vaccines do not cause or create the virus.  You can find more information here: (

How did these vaccines get approved so quickly? How do I know they are safe?

The research began in March 2020, and due to the overwhelming state of the pandemic, a lot of people were invested in making this happen.  That means there were more funds available, more people were working together (sharing knowledge, etc.), and companies were able to have more people in their studies.  The vaccines were still rigorously tested and had to meet all of the usual safety processes and standards, including three phases of clinical trials.  There were 10,000s of study participants in various clinical trials, which means the safety data is there. Health Canada reviews the vaccines before approving for use to ensure that it’s safe, that it works, that the manufacturing process is consistent and high quality, and that the benefits of having the vaccine outweigh the risks of not having it.  There is strong evidence that the vaccine is safe and it works for people aged 16 and over, including seniors, and is highly effective across age, sex, race, and ethnicity.

If you’d like more information about this process, I’d be happy to explain further over phone or by email. You can also speak to your local pharmacist or family care provider.

You can watch a video on vaccine safety here: (

You can also find more information on the Government of Canada website here: (

Once I have the vaccine, that’s it? I’m good?

The short answer is, not quite.  We are still waiting to see how long immunity lasts.  As mentioned before, clinical trials will continue, and data will be collected from the many other countries administering these vaccines as well.  Some vaccines protect you for life, and some require annual or even 10 year boosters (ie: tetanus, are you up to date?).  As time goes on, we will know more about the length of protection.  The other factor still being reviewed is: can you be asymptomatic and continue to pass the virus on to others?  We know the vaccine helps prevent the disease and severity of symptoms of the virus, but we don’t know the answer to that question yet.  This means we have to continue to follow Public Health guidelines, regardless of immunization status, until we have more information and build herd immunity to the virus.

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COVID-19 Update # 16 from the AFN Health Director | December 9, 2020

Dec 9, 2020

Health Director Update

Update from Nova Scotia Health on first COVID-19 vaccine supply to arrive in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Health has been planning for several weeks to prepare for vaccine distribution, site planning, human resources and other potential requirements. We are now moving into high gear.

Nova Scotia will receive its first allotment of 1950 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine next week and will begin with immunizing healthcare workers most directly involved in the COVID-19 response in Central Zone. The focus for December is Central Zone because the Pfizer vaccine can’t be moved around the province given its strict storage, handling and transportation requirements.

Healthcare workers to be immunized first include those working in COVID-19 care units, Regional Care Units and intensive care units that care for COVID-19 patients. We are committed to ensuring that all healthcare workers are provided access to vaccine as additional supply becomes available.

Nova Scotia Health Occupational Health and Safety will be supporting immunization plans for healthcare workers.

A mass immunization effort of this scale will require significant resources and unparalleled collaboration with partners at federal, provincial and community levels. Many factors that will affect the timeline for distribution, such as vaccine supply, system resources and logistics.

At this time, we are working on our operational plans for vaccination clinics. We commit to sharing updates with you as soon as possible when information becomes available. Thanks for your ongoing patience and understanding.

Booking begins for asymptomatic testing across the province

Starting Tuesday, Dec. 8, Nova Scotians around the province with no COVID-19 symptoms can book appointments for testing. It is mainly recommended for people who have a lot of close social interaction through gatherings or many social contacts.

“This is an opportunity for Nova Scotians to help keep each other safe, especially as we approach the holiday season,” said Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health. “By getting tested, you can help us limit the potential spread of the virus by detecting positive cases in people who do not have symptoms.”

Asymptomatic testing is available for people who:

  • do not have symptoms
  • have not travelled outside the Atlantic provinces within the past 14 days
  • have not visited a potential exposure location
  • have not been in contact with someone who has tested positive

In Central Zone, people can go to the Zatzman Sportsplex in Dartmouth for an asymptomatic test without an appointment. In all other zones, appointments are required and can be booked at , choosing the asymptomatic option. Appointments can be booked until Dec. 13.

In addition, pop-up sites will continue in different locations around the province. Because they use rapid tests, the age limit is 16 and over at these sites.

People getting tested through this process are not required to self-isolate while waiting for their test or results. People getting tested for other reasons can find their self-isolation requirements at .

time of testing but it does not mean that they could not become infectious in the next few days. People who receive a negative test result must continue to follow public health measures and if they develop symptoms, immediately self-isolate and complete the COVID-19 self-assessment.

The number of tests that can be done is based on the need to prioritize testing of people who have symptoms and close contacts of known cases. Not everyone who comes forward for an asymptomatic test will necessarily get one.

Everyone is reminded to keep their social circles small and follow public health measures including wearing masks, physical distancing, practicing good hand hygiene, and staying home and completing the COVID-19 self-assessment if they have symptoms.

Marla Robinson-Pyne
Health Director Acadia First Nation
Yarmouth Health Centre
15234 Hwy 3
Yarmouth NS, B5A 4A8

COVID-19 Update # 15 from the AFN Health Director | December 3, 2020

Dec 3, 2020

Health Director Update

Please keep up to date with NS public exposure notices:

Coronavirus (COVID-19): download COVID Alert


COVID Alert is a free exposure notification app. The app lets you know if you may have been exposed to COVID-19. You can also use the app to let others know if you test positive without sharing any personal information.

Along with following public health guidance, you can download COVID Alert to help reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). The more people who use the app, the more effective it will be in helping to protect each other and our communities.

How COVID Alert works

  1. If someone tests positive for COVID-19, they receive a one-time key from their local health authority to enter into the app.
  2. The app uses your phone’s Bluetooth signal to detect how close you are to other people with the app.
  3. If someone you’ve been in close contact with (more than 15 minutes, less than 2 metres apart, over the past 14 days) later tests positive for COVID-19, you’re notified through the app that you may have been exposed. You also get advice on what to do next.

Your privacy is important

COVID Alert doesn’t collect personally identifiable information about you. The app has no way of knowing:

  • your location
  • your name or address
  • the place or time you were near someone
  • your health information

Phone compatibility

COVID Alert should work on any smartphone released in the last 5 years including iPhone 6S or newer (running iOS 13.5 or newer) and Android devices running Android version 6 or newer.

Download the app

COVID Alert is free. It’s available for iOS and Android.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): what to do if you may have been exposed

Steps you should take to monitor your health and protect others if you’ve been notified by COVID Alert or think you’ve been exposed to COVID-19.

Step 1: Watch for symptoms

Watch for symptoms. Symptoms can vary from person to person and in different age groups. Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19. To help protect others, it’s especially important to watch for symptoms if you’re going to public places, your workplace and settings where it’s difficult to keep a physical distance of 2 metres (6 feet) from others.

Step 2: Find out if you need a COVID-19 test

Complete a COVID-19 Self-assessment if you feel unwell or have any COVID-19 symptoms. You can call 811 for assessment if you’re unable to complete the COVID-19 Self-assessment online (or to speak with a nurse). If the assessment determines that you need a test, Nova Scotia Health Authority or IWK Health Centre will call you within 1 to 2 days to book the testing appointment.

Step 3: If you test positive for COVID-19 - notify COVID Alert

Self-isolate if you have tested positive for COVID-19.

You can also use COVID Alert to let others know if you test positive without sharing any personal information. If you test positive for COVID-19, Public Health gives you a one-time key over the phone when you get your positive test result. You will only get one key and it expires in 24 hours or after you enter the key into the COVID Alert app.

In the event that you are notified by Public Health that you have been exposed you will be given instruction by the contact tracing public health team on testing, self-isolation and any other requirements set forth by the Government of NS.

What is Contact Tracing?

Contact tracing is the process of identifying, assessing, and managing people who have been exposed to a disease to prevent onward transmission. When systematically applied, contact tracing will break the chains of transmission of COVID-19 and is an essential public health tool for controlling the virus.

Contact tracing for COVID-19 requires identifying people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and following them up daily for 14 days from the last point of exposure.

As always, remember the best defense against Covid-19 and keeping yourself and others safe is to practice social distancing, Keeping your hands clean, cough and sneeze etiquette, cleaning and disinfecting and wearing a non-medical mask.

Marla Robinson-Pyne
Health Director Acadia First Nation
Yarmouth Health Centre
15234 Hwy 3
Yarmouth NS
Phone: (902)742-4337
Fax: (902)742-4824

COVID-19 Update from Our Community Health Nurse

Community Members,

As you probably know, the second wave of Covid-19 has hit Nova Scotia. Much like the rest of the world, it is spreading quickly. The majority of cases are currently in HRM and Hants County areas, and so the Premier and Chief Medical Officer have tightened restrictions in those areas. The restriction guide for each county can be found here:

A summary of the new restrictions can be found below:

  • bars and restaurants are closed to in-person dining (takeout may continue)
  • maximum of 5 guests per household
  • groups of no more than 5 people allowed outside the home (group should remain as consistent as possible)
  • casino and other gaming establishments, fitness centres, libraries, and museums are closed
  • organized sports, recreational activities, faith-based and cultural gatherings, are not permitted
  • masks must now be worn in common areas of multi-unit dwellings such as apartment buildings and condos (in addition to all previous mask mandates)
    retail stores must operate at 25% capacity or below

Please read the following pages for more information, tips for the holiday season, and important resources.


The holiday season is upon us! It brings with it an extra layer of difficulty (to already difficult times) as we want to shop ‘til we drop and gather with family and friends. While we don’t yet know what restrictions will be closer to the holidays, it is time to start thinking about how we can adapt to celebrate safely, but happily. Here are some things to consider under current restrictions:

  • shop online
  • take advantage of curbside pickup - available with many stores when ordering online or by phone
  • “click and collect” available with many grocery stores (Superstore PC Express, Sobeys Voila, Walmart Grocery)
  • shop small/local businesses & avoid crowded malls etc.
  • shop “off-hours” - stores are typically less crowded through the day on weekdays, an hour before close, and mornings on weekends


One of the most important things to remember is if you are feeling unwell, stay home if you can, and if you can’t, minimize interactions, making only essential trips outside the home. By reducing the number of sick people in our province, it helps to reduce the load on our health care system, which is vital during a pandemic. One symptom can quickly turn into more, and potentially require a Covid-19 test, and/or treatment. We want to avoid passing any symptoms around stores, our work places, our communities etc. as it can quickly become complicated. While you may be “fine” with a cold or flu, the next person may be required to stay home, get tested, seek medical attention, or even be hospitalized. It is more important than ever that we protect one another this winter. You can find the 811 self-assessment and booking site here: or you can call 8-1-1


The flu shot helps protect you and your community. Especially this year, preventing the flu is one more way we can help reduce the load on our health care system. If you haven’t received one yet, you can book an appointment at the Gold River Health Centre (ongoing while quantities last) by calling 902-627-1245 or email . Flu shots will also be available at the Yarmouth Health Centre on December 1st, you can book by calling 902-742-4337.


Please note that many diagnostics sites are now setup for self-booking, such as ECG, bloodwork, or x-ray. If you have a requisition, you can book here:


The federal government has announced a new benefit to help ease the stress of having to stay home, for those who have no paid sick leave through their employer. The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefits (CRSB) pays for up to 10 sick days should you have to stay home with symptoms, awaiting test results, a positive case of Covid-19, or are a caregiver to someone who is required to isolate. You can find more information here:


Please know, this pandemic is hard on everyone, and you are not alone in feeling stressed, anxious, confused, or frustrated. If you are struggling, or finding it hard to manage, please reach out. We have adult and child/youth mental health clinicians at both Health Centres, in Gold River and Yarmouth. In addition, NIHB covers 2 hours of initial assessment plus 20 hours of ongoing mental health counselling sessions, and more may be available on a case-by-case basis. NIHB covers psychologists, social workers, psychiatric nurses, psychotherapists, and other regulated mental health providers permitted to practice by legislation (ie: registered counselling therapists). They must be in good standing and willing to complete the paperwork with NIHB to be on the “approved list”. You can find more information here:

Or you can reach out to the Community Health Nurse to help you navigate this.


  • wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds, or with alcohol-based hand sanitizer when washing isn’t an option
  • wear a mask over your nose and mouth in all indoor public spaces, minimize the contact of hand to mask, and be mindful of clean hands when handling your mask
  • ensure physical distancing when interacting with anyone outside your group of 5-10 (depending on county restrictions)
  • respect capacity rules and follow directions when entering, exiting, and navigating through public spaces
  • be kind, be patient, be respectful


We’re all in this together!

Chelsea Sawyer
AFN Community Health Nurse