Answers to your COVID-19 Vaccine Questions

Updated June 4, 2021, 2021

Information about COVID-19 vaccines is continuously emerging. Information on this page is up to date as of the last update noted above.

When you are eligible

When will it be my turn to be vaccinated?

Everyone in Ontario age 12 and older is eligible to receive their first dose. Please pre-register now and an appointment invitation will be sent within 5 days. If you do not receive your appointment booking invitation, you can call 1-844-780-0202 to book. See the Appointment Booking Status page for updates on first and second dose appointments.

What happens if I decide to wait? 

Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopen is based on:

  • the provincewide vaccination rate
  • improvements in key public health and health care indicators

We encourage everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible to help end the pandemic and move forward.

What if I am eligible to get the vaccine through both public health and through my doctor?

Primary care providers are offering vaccines to those they contact for an appointment. If you are able to receive the vaccine from your primary care provider or a pharmacy before getting in with Public Health, we highly recommend this option.

If you have pre-registered, you do not need to cancel your pre-registration when you book an appointment elsewhere, no action is required. However, if you have an appointment booked with Public Health and you get vaccinated at your doctor’s office or at a pharmacy, please cancel your appointment with public health so that time slot can be used by someone who still needs a vaccine. Detailed instructions on how to cancel can be found at wdgpublichealth.ca/booking, it only takes a few minutes.

Is it mandatory that I get vaccinated?

At this time, the COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory, but strongly encouraged for everyone to get it when they are eligible. Vaccines are the way out of this pandemic.

Where to get vaccinated

Where are vaccinations taking place in WDG?
A list of vaccination clinic locations is available on our website. These are supplemented by mobile clinics (locations and dates vary, these are added to the appointment booking site as available or you can call 1-844-780-0202). All clinics follow public health COVID-19 safety protocols.
Can I get vaccinated at my doctor’s office or at a pharmacy?

Vaccine administration by primary care providers in WDG for those who choose to participate is underway. Please inquire with your physician about which vaccine you will receive at your appointment.

Several pharmacies in the WDG area are offering vaccines as well. To book an appointment, find a participating pharmacy. Contact your pharmacy to find out which vaccine they are administering.

Can I get vaccinated outside of my health unit area?

There are situations where people may get vaccinated outside of the health unit of their area of residence such as:

  • Those who are eligible based on their occupation and they work in another health unit region.
  • Getting vaccinated at a participating pharmacy.

Why get vaccinated

Why should I get vaccinated? 

Getting vaccinated is important because:

  • When you’re vaccinated, you build immunity which helps to protect you from getting the disease.
  • The more people who are vaccinated in the community, the lower the risk of infection for those who:
    • can’t be vaccinated
    • are too young to receive vaccines
    • developed only partial immunity from the vaccine
  • When you’re vaccinated, you help to create community immunity, sometimes called herd immunity.
  • The more contagious a disease, the more we need high vaccination coverage to reach community immunity.
  • COVID-19 can be a serious illness for many people and for some people, even young health people, symptoms can last for months.
  • Getting vaccinated is a safe and effective way to build protection against the virus. The mild-to-moderate side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are known, while the risk of potential of long-term health damages from COVID-19 are largely unknown (see next question below).
What are the long-term effects of getting COVID-19?

People tend to overestimate vaccine side effects and underestimate the severity of COVID-19. This is called “optimism bias” and is when people believe they are less likely to experience negative effects.

According to the CDC and the WHO, COVID-19 can sometimes result in prolonged illness, even in young adults and children without underlying chronic medical conditions. There are many case reports from people who do not regain their previous health following COVID-19. Further, little is known about the long-term effects of COVID-19 following milder illness.

  • In a telephone survey of symptomatic adults who had a positive outpatient test result for SARS-CoV-2, 35% had not returned to their usual state of health when interviewed 2–3 weeks after testing. Among those 18 to 34 years in good health, 20% (1 in 5) reported that some symptoms were prolonged.

The World Health Organization outlines the following long-term health problems that getting COVID-19 may increase the risk of:

  • Heart: Damage to heart muscle, heart failure
  • Lungs: Damage to lung tissue and restrictive lung failure
  • Brain and the nervous system: Loss of sense of smell (anosmia), consequences of thrombo-embolic events such as pulmonary embolism, heart attack, stroke; cognitive impairment (e.g. memory and concentration)
  • Mental health: Anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and sleep disturbance
  • Musculoskeletal and others: Pain in join and muscles, fatigue

Much is still unknown about how COVID-19 affects people over time and the likelihood of full recovery. 

Why should I get vaccinated if I tested positive for COVID-19 in the past?

You may have some immunity from your infection, but no-one knows how long it will last or how effective a natural immune response may be, it will vary person to person. When you have the COVID-19 vaccine, it can help protect you against re-infection and to develop a stronger immune response.

COVID-19 vaccines and youth

Where can I get trusted information about the COVID-19 vaccine for youth?

Visit Kids Health First Website for FAQs and resources for parents, youth and providers about the COVID-19 vaccine. This site was developed by the Children’s COVID-19 Vaccine Table and supported by the Children’s Health Coalition.

The Children’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Table is co-chaired by Dr. Vinita Dubey, Associate Medical Officer of Health at Toronto Public Health and Kimberly Moran, CEO of Children’s Mental Health Ontario and representing the Children’s Health Coalition. The purpose of the Children’s Vaccine Advisory Table is to provide strategic advice and recommendations to government regarding vaccine strategy in the context of the COVID-19 global pandemic to inform planning, process and readiness with a focus on children.

Do youth aged 12-17 need parental consent to get vaccinated?

Anyone getting the COVID-19 vaccine, including youth ages 12 to 17, must provide informed consent. Informed consent means that you understand:

  • what the vaccine involves (for example, how it is given and what possible side effects there may be)
  • why it is recommended
  • the risks and benefits of getting or not getting it

You may want to talk to a teacher, parent or adult that you trust before getting the vaccine.

If someone age 12-17 is unable to provide informed consent to receive the vaccine (for example, for medical reasons), they will need consent from someone who can make a decision on their behalf, such as a parent or legal guardian.

Download the consent form (PDF)

Vaccines available

What COVID-19 vaccines have been approved in Canada?

There are four vaccines approved for use in Canada so far. Information about each can be found on the Government of Canada website: Vaccines for COVID-19: Authorized vaccines.

Which vaccine is the best one for me?

Dr. Nicola Mercer, Medical Officer of Health and CEO of WDG Public Health has stated “I encourage every resident of the region to get vaccinated as soon as it is their turn with whichever approved vaccine is available to them.”

When the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, first emerged more than a year ago, there was no vaccine to fight COVID-19, the disease it causes. Now there are four vaccines authorized by Health Canada, with more in development.

All vaccines approved for use in Canada are safe and effective and being vaccinated with any of the vaccines available is better than not being vaccinated. Being vaccinated also increases the chances that you’ll have a mild rather than severe case of the illness should you get infected. All of the vaccines available have been shown to be highly effective at preventing COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths.

Should I wait to get vaccinated until I have a choice of which brand I prefer?

Delaying the vaccine is not recommended because the longer you wait, the longer you remain unprotected and prolong your risk of getting COVID-19 or a more serious variant. Evidence has shown all of the vaccines are highly effective against COVID-19 and preventing serious illness and death.

The best vaccine to get is the one available to you as soon as you are offered it. The sooner that a large proportion of the population is immunized, the sooner we can lift the restrictions that are in place and help put an end to the pandemic.

What vaccine will I be getting at my appointment?

Public Health and partner-led vaccination clinics are currently using the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. The specific vaccine offered at each clinic may change depending on supply. You will be informed of the vaccine you will get when you arrive at your appointment.

All of the vaccines approved for use in Canada are safe and highly effective at preventing COVID-related hospitalizations and death. The best vaccine to get is the one available to you as soon as you are offered it.

Vaccine safety, ingredients and efficacy

How effective is a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine?

Pfizer

Moderna

AstraZeneca

From clinical trials: 

• 92% efficacy at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 >14 days after Dose 1 

From real world data: 

• 94% effective at preventing COVID-19 related hospitalizations (28-34 days after Dose 1)

From clinical trials: 

• 92% efficacy at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 ≥ 14 days after Dose 1 

From clinical trials: 

• 71% efficacy (≥ 22 days after Dose 1) 

From real world data: 

• 85% effective at preventing COVID-19 related hospitalizations (28-34 days after Dose 1) 

 

How do I know the vaccines are safe?

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Countries around the world have approved the vaccines based on thorough scientific evidence. Billions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across 175 countries, and 22+ millions of doses per day continue to be administered to a diverse range of people. The vaccines are being monitored continuously around the world with the most intensive and collaborative safety monitoring in history. You can view Canada’s adverse effects following immunization (AEFI) data and it shows that Canada is monitoring only one safety issue.

 

What are the ingredients in the mRNA vaccines and what do they do? 

Each ingredient is necessary for the medicinal ingredient to gain entry into cells and to do its work. There is nothing in the ingredient list that is questionable or unnecessary. mRNA (Pfizer and Moderna) have no preservatives which is why they need to be kept at the sub-zero temperatures.

Type of ingredient and what it does

  • Medical (active) ingredient: Provides instructions for our body on how to make a viral protein that triggers an immune response within our bodies. The immune response is what causes our bodies to make the antibodies needed to protect us from getting infected if exposed to the coronavirus. 
  • Lipids (fats): Form a protective shell around the mRNA to keep it stable and intact until it reaches the body and starts to do its work. They help the mRNA slide inside the cells. After that they dissolve and are removed by your body.
  • Salts: Used to maintain pH and stability of the vaccine so it will be accepted into your body. 
  • Acids and Acid Stabalizers: Work with the other ingredients to maintain the stability of the vaccine.
  • Sugar: Works with the other ingredients to maintain the stability of the vaccine. Sugar helps the molecules maintain their shape during freezing. 

 

Ingredients in the mRNA vaccines

Vaccine Ingredients for Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 Vaccines

Type of ingredient and what it does

Pfizer Ingredients 

Moderna Ingredients 

Medical (active) ingredient

  • 30 mg mRNA 

 

  • 100 mg mRNA 

 

Lipids (fats)  

  • 0.43 mg ALC-0315 = ((4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate)  
  • 0.05 mg ALC-0159 = 2-[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide  
  • 0.09 mg 1,2-Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine 
  • 0.2 mg cholesterol 

1.93 mg total 

  • 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DSPC 
  • polyethylene glycol (PEG) 2000 DMG 
  • cholesterol  
  • lipid SM-102 

Salts

  • 0.07 mg dibasic sodium phosphate dehydrate 
  • 0.01 mg monobasic potassium phosphate 
  • 0.01 mg potassium chloride 
  • 0.36 mg sodium chloride 
  • 0.12 mg sodium acetate 

Acids

n/a 

  • 0.043 mg acetic acid 

Acid Stabilizers

n/a 

  • 0.31 mg tromethamine 
  • 1.18 mg tromethamine hydrochloride 

Sugar

  • 6 mg sucrose (basic table sugar) and water
  • 43.5 mg sucrose (basic table sugar) and water
 
Are the vaccines effective against new strains (variants) of the virus?

Viruses undergo mutations all the time and scientists are monitoring for these changes. The more COVID-19 cases, the more likely virus mutations will emerge, making it important to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Data from vaccine clinical trials and real-world evidence show that even in the face of variants, the COVID-19 vaccines can drastically cut the risk of severe disease.

Scientists are working to learn more about these and other variants to better understand how easily they might be transmitted and the effectiveness of vaccines against them. Drugmakers are also re-working their vaccines to account for variants of concern. New information about these variants is rapidly emerging.

Doses

Do I need to get two doses?

To develop an effective infection-fighting response, you need to get two doses of:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Moderna
  • AstraZeneca (see below for more information about second doses of AstraZeneca)
When will I get a second dose once I have had my first?

To increase the number of individuals benefiting from a first dose of vaccine in the context of a limited COVID-19 vaccine supply, the province is following recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) to extend the time interval of the second dose of COVID-19 vaccines up to 16 weeks. This 16-week interval for the second dose applies to all two-dose vaccines currently approved by Health Canada.

Following these updated interval recommendations, most people will be eligible to receive a second dose 16 weeks after your first dose with some exceptions. If you have not received a date for a second dose appointment or your appointment was cancelled, you will hear from WDGPH several weeks prior to book your appointment.

To see who is receiving second dose appointments and when, please visit our Appointment Booking Status page and scroll to the Second Doses chart.

Can I get a second dose of a different vaccine than my first dose?

On June 3, 2021, the Province of Ontario announced updated guidelines on mixing doses based on NACI’s statement on the interchangeability of COVID-19 vaccines issued June 1, 2021.

If you received AstraZeneca as your first dose, here are your options for your second dose:

  • Option 1: Receive a second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
    • If you received your first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine 12 weeks ago and would like a second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, you can contact the pharmacy or primary care provider where you received your first dose to book an appointment.
  • Option 2: Receive a second dose of an mRNA (Pfizer or Moderna) vaccine.
    • Beginning the week of June 7, 2021, individuals who received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be eligible to book a second dose of an mRNA vaccine at a 12-week interval. You may schedule your second dose appointment at a participating pharmacy where the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are administered. Primary care settings and pharmacies may also be reaching out to eligible Ontarians directly. More information about booking your second dose with public health is coming soon.
    • COVID-19 Vaccine Information for Individuals who received a first dose of the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD COVID-19 vaccine (PDF)

Both second-dose options are safe and provide strong protection against COVID-19 and will count as a completed series.

If you received Pfizer or Moderna (mRNA vaccines) as your first dose:

  • Option 1: Receive a second dose of the same mRNA vaccine (this will be the default option when the original vaccine is readily available).
  • Option 2: Receive a second dose of a different mRNA vaccine (if the original vaccine is not readily available, this option will be offered).

NACI’s guidance advises that the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines can be safely interchanged for first and second doses.

Side effects

What are the common side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines? 

The most common side effects are mild to moderate and happen within the first 3 days after vaccination, lasting about 1-2 days. They include:

  • pain at the injection site
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • muscle and joint pain
  • chills and fever

Even if you experience mild side effects, it is important to receive the second dose. You may get the same side effects with your second dose.

 

What if the side effects last longer than 1-2 days or COVID-19 symptoms start to develop? 

Some of the side effects of the vaccine are similar to symptoms of COVID-19 infection. However, side effects from the vaccine should only last a day or two and go away on their own. Symptoms such as cough or other respiratory symptoms are not side effects of the vaccine and are more likely to be due to a respiratory infection like COVID-19.

Use the Ontario COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool if you experience any symptoms of COVID-19 infection, including fever, respiratory symptoms (runny nose, sore throat, shortness of breath, etc.) or other symptoms. This will let you know if you need to get tested for COVID-19. A COVID-19 test can help differentiate whether the symptoms are caused by an infection.

If you only have a local injection site reaction (redness, swelling, or soreness where you had the needle) then you don’t need to get tested.

Are there any serious side effects? 

A small number of people have had a severe allergic reaction (called “anaphylaxis”) after vaccination, but this is extremely rare and when it does happen, vaccination providers have medicines available that they can use to effectively and immediately treat the reaction. You will be asked to stay for 15-30 minutes after you get your vaccine so you can be observed and provided treatment in the rare case it is needed. 

Should I be worried about blood clots with the AstraZeneca vaccine?

Effective May 11, 2021, Ontario announced it will pause the use of AstraZeneca. This decision was made out of an abundance of caution due to an observed increase in the rare blood clotting condition, known as vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT), linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine. In Ontario, eight cases of VITT have been reported resulting in a rate of 1.7 events per 100,000 doses administered (approx. 1 in 60,000). The decision to pause is also based on the increased and reliable supply of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines and the downward trend in cases.

VITT is very rare and AstraZeneca remains a very effective vaccination against COVID-19 - reducing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19 - and it was the right decision to get vaccinated as soon as possible with the vaccine available.

While VITT remains rare, if you received the AstraZeneca vaccine in the previous 4 to 28 days and develop signs or symptoms of VITT (such as persistent and severe headache, difficulty moving parts of your body, seizures, blurred or double vision, shortness of breath, or back, chest or abdominal pain, significant changes in a limb — pain, swelling, redness, a pale appearance or cold feeling in an arm or leg) contact your doctor or visit an emergency room immediately.

Should I be worried about long-term side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine? 

The medical and scientific community is confident in the long-term safety of COVID-19 vaccines as there is nothing in the technology or the clinical experience to-date that suggests any risk or reason for long-term side effects.

When getting vaccinated

Should I talk to my primary care provider before getting the vaccine? 

Anyone looking for more information on the COVID-19 vaccine as it relates to their personal health situation is encouraged to discuss with their doctor.

There are situations where a discussion with your doctor is mandatory before getting the vaccine. Please visit Preparing for your vaccination to learn more. In general, check with your doctor or health care provider if you: 

  • have had a severe or immediate allergic reaction to a vaccine, drug or food, a previous dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or any components of the COVID-19 vaccines in the past. 
  • are pregnant, could be pregnant, are planning to be pregnant or are breastfeeding. 
  • have any problems with your immune system or take medications that can affect your immune system. 
  • have an autoimmune disease. 
  • have a bleeding disorder or are taking medications that could affect blood clotting (e.g. blood thinners) 
  • have ever felt faint or fainted after a past vaccination or medical procedure.
Can I still get the COVID-19 vaccine if I was just vaccinated for something else?

You should wait 14 days before receiving the COVID-19 vaccine if you have had another type of vaccine. After receiving your second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, you should not receive any other vaccines for 28 days. If for some reason you need another vaccine within 28 days, discuss this with your doctor or health care provider.

Should I get the vaccine if I feel sick?

You should not get the vaccine if you are sick or have COVID-19 right now. Wait until you are better to get the shot. If you have symptoms that could be due to COVID-19, go get tested.

Do I have to pay for the vaccine?

No. The vaccine and supplies to administer them have been paid for by the Canadian government and are provided at no cost to Canadians.

How will the vaccine be administered?

The vaccine is administered with a needle by an injection to the upper arm.

After getting vaccinated

How can I get my vaccination receipt (record) if I did not get it after my appointment or lost it?

After you are vaccinated, you can log in to the provincial portal to download or print an electronic COVID-19 vaccine receipt (PDF) for each dose you have received.

Receipts are available:

  • for first and second doses received in Ontario (once you get them)
  • regardless of where you were vaccinated (for example, at a mass immunization clinic, hospital, pharmacy or primary care setting)

To log in and get your receipt, you will need:

  • a green photo health (OHIP) card (you will need numbers from both the front and back of the card, expired cards will be accepted)
  • your date of birth
  • your postal code (the one associated with your health card)

Get your electronic vaccine receipt (record) here.

If you have a red and white health card or did not have a health card at the time of vaccination, call the Provincial Line at 1-833-943-3900. The call centre agent can email you a copy of your receipt.

Do I still need to get tested for COVID-19 if I develop symptoms after receiving one dose or after I am fully vaccinated?

Yes. The vaccines are not 100% effective and transmission after vaccination is still being studied so it may still be possible to spread the virus to others. To help stop the spread and protect others who may not be vaccinated or who are unable to be vaccinated, it is important that people who develop symptoms continue to isolate and get tested. This ensures Public Health can contact anyone who may have been exposed.

Once I’m vaccinated, do I still have to worry about public health measures like wearing a mask and social distancing?

Currently, everyone who receives the vaccine will still need to follow public health guidance and follow orders from the province and your local public health unit. After you get a vaccine, it will still be extremely important to continue to practice all the preventive measures that have been recommended, including washing your hands, maintaining a safe physical distance, wearing a mask, and staying home when sick.

As things change, public health measures will be updated and adjusted. It is important to keep following public health recommendations in the meantime.

Will COVID-19 stop spreading and the pandemic end once enough people are vaccinated?

There are still many unknowns like how long immunity will last, will vaccines be effective against new variants and when will all countries be able to be vaccinated. In the past, pandemics have typically lasted between 12 and 36 months but this is a new virus and the timeline is still unknown.