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Patient and family member information about COVID-19

We’re working to ensure that our patients and clients as well as their loved ones have all of the information they need about COVID-19, including what they need to know if they’re participating in treatment in one of our programs.
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Here, you’ll find communications from our vice-president to family members, some general questions about COVID-19, and questions that our clients and patients have had about the COVID-19 vaccine. For the most up to date information about COVID-19, visit the BCCDC website. For details on the provincial vaccination rollout, including sequencing, visit the Government of B.C. website.

Letters from our VP

We’ve sent letters to family members from our vice-president as the pandemic has unfolded.

General COVID-19 information

We are still learning about COVID-19. Some people who have it do not feel sick at all but others can become seriously ill. Most people with COVID-19 fully recover without the need for special medical help, but older people or people with health conditions like diabetes, heart disease and lung disease are more likely to become ill. We are taking steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 to patients, visitors and staff at all our sites.

The most common symptoms include:
  • A high temperature
  • A new cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Muscle aches
  • Feeling more tired than usual
  • Headaches
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Diarrhea
If you think you may have symptoms, please take the BC Ministry of Health COVID-19 self-assessment tool and follow the instructions based on your symptoms.

To keep patients, families and staff safe, we are strictly limiting the number of visitors at the moment. Only visits that staff say are essential will be allowed. We understand that this may be difficult and thank you for your understanding.

If an in-person visit is allowed by staff, you will be screened for COVID-19. You might be asked questions about recent travel outside of Canada, symptoms of COVID-19 that you may have, or whether you have had contact with a person who has COVID-19 or might have COVID-19. 

You will also be asked to be extra careful during your visit. This may include being asked to meet in a separate room or limiting the number of personal items you bring with you. You will also be asked to wear a medical mask, which we will provide.

We recommend that you connect with your friends, family and loved ones through phones and technology for the moment. Staff will be able to help you with teleconferencing or videoconferencing where possible. ‎


To help limit the number of people in our buildings, we ask that people not send gifts or other items at the moment.‎

You can take these simple, everyday steps to reduce exposure to the virus and protect your health:
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or hand sanitizer, especially after being in shared spaces and before eating. 
  • Sneeze and cough into your elbow, not your hand.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Stay over two metres away from others and do not hug or shake hands. This is known as social distancing and helps prevent germs being passed from person to person.
In addition to limiting visitors, we are taking many steps to keep you or your loved one safe at this time, including:
  • Staff are washing or sanitizing their hands frequently.
  • We’re cleaning shared spaces very often and very carefully.
  • Staff are safely disposing of items like gloves and masks to keep rooms and clothing free from germs.
  • We are limiting the number and size of gatherings and outings. If a group or outing goes ahead, the size will be decreased to ensure there is a space two metres between patients to prevent the spread of germs.
Our outpatient services, including the Regional Forensic Psychiatric Clinics, continue to remain open. Where possible, staff will meet with patients and families by phone or video. If not possible or appropriate, we continue to provide in-person care while following safety protocol.
We are committed to ensuring you or your loved one continue to have access to quality care. If you are concerned about how COVID-19 may impact your/your loved one’s care at BCMHSUS, please contact your Regional Forensic Clinic.

Patient and client questions about the COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19 is an infection of the airways and lungs that can be very serious, especially for people who are older or who have other chronic health conditions such as the following:
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease
  • Kidney disease
COVID-19 can also be more serious if you smoke or used to smoke.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include a cough, shortness of breath, fever, chills, tiredness and the loss of smell or taste. Some people with COVID-19 may have no symptoms or only mild symptoms. Others may need to go to the hospital and may even die.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is spread from person to person by coughing, sneezing, talking and singing. It can also be spread by touching an object or surface with the virus on it and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.‎

COVID-19 mRNA vaccines help your body make antibodies that will help protect you from getting sick if you are exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19.  

Right now, the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are made by two different drug companies: Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. The vaccine you get will depend on what is available. No one is able to choose which vaccine they get, but both vaccines are safe and effective.

Right now, because the vaccine is new and still being made, B.C. is receiving it a little at a time. The Ministry of Health and the regional health authorities are setting priorities for who needs the vaccine the most. You are part of a high-priority group, but the timeline for your vaccine will depend on needs elsewhere in our health authority area. We expect that you’ll receive your vaccine by the end of March. We’ll let you know more as soon as we can.‎

Right now, the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are the best way to protect you against COVID-19. Research showed that those who got the vaccine were about 95 per cent less likely to get sick with COVID-19. 

It’s important to remember that no vaccine is 100 per cent effective, so even if you get the vaccine, there is a small chance you could still get COVID-19. Also, after your first dose of the vaccine, it will take about two weeks for your body to build protection from the virus. If you are exposed to someone with COVID-19 during those two weeks or shortly before getting the vaccine, you could still get COVID-19. 

If you do get COVID-19, whether you have been vaccinated or not, we will make sure you get the proper medical care.

Yes. After you get the vaccine, continue to follow the same public health recommendations you’re following now:
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer
  • Physically distance
  • Wear a mask if you use transit or enter a public building while you’re on a pass

Yes, but you’ll still need to follow public health guidelines, including distancing, cleaning your hands, and wearing a mask in public buildings and on transit.‎


You don’t have to get the vaccine, but we strongly recommend it. The vaccines are the best way to protect you against COVID-19, which is serious and sometimes deadly, and which spreads very easily—especially in places where a lot of people live together. When you get the vaccine, you help protect others as well, including those who can’t get the vaccine. When it’s your turn, we will give you a consent form to fill in. We’ll help you make sure you understand all the benefits and all the possible side effects of receiving the vaccine.‎


Yes, the vaccine is safe. Scientists have spent many months testing both vaccines on thousands of people. They have shared their results with public health agencies such as Health Canada, which has approved the vaccines. Health Canada has one of the toughest vaccine screening processes in the world—they approve only vaccines they believe are safe.‎


A vaccine isn’t the same thing as treatment. Vaccines will help prevent you from getting the virus. Treatment helps people who have already tested positive for COVID-19.‎


We'll clean your arm with some alcohol, and inject the vaccine into the muscle in your upper arm. This is the first of two doses of the vaccine. The first dose will offer a lot of protection after about two weeks of getting it, but for the vaccine to be most effective, you'll need the second dose later on.‎


Vaccines are very safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get COVID-19. Some people experience minor side effects from the vaccine, which means they might feel unwell, sore or uncomfortable afterward. These side effects are mild and generally last one to two days. In the rare case you may need health care because of side effects, we'll provide it.


Remember, the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines don't contain actual virus and cannot give you COVID-19.

There are no mental health side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine that we know of. If you do have side effects, we’ll make sure you get the care you need.‎


Don’t worry if you have collapsed or challenging veins. The needle for the COVID-19 vaccine goes into your muscle. ‎


‎You’ll give consent for the second dose of the vaccine when you go to your appointment. We recommend you get the second dose so you have the most protection from COVID-19.‎

You’ll get your second dose in several weeks. Note that your second dose of the vaccine will be the same kind as the first. You don’t need to remember what kind of vaccine you get, or when. It will be tracked for you. 

If you complete the program before your second dose of the vaccine, you will get it from your regional health authority. A staff member will provide you with more information before you leave.‎

The vaccine is only available to some people right now, but most people will eventually be able to get it. The vaccine is not approved for kids yet because researchers need to make sure the vaccine is safe and effective for them. 

If you have COVID-19 now, you may need to wait to get the vaccine. Talk to health care staff if you have questions.

A very small number of people have allergies to some of the ingredients in the vaccine, and should avoid it. If you have serious allergies, talk to health care staff about whether the vaccine is safe for you.

If you can’t get the vaccine right now, you’ll still be protected by others who get the vaccine, and by continuing to use the protection you’re used to, including distancing, masks and cleaning your hands.

Download the patient and client vaccination FAQ.

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