Answers to your COVID-19 Vaccine Questions

Updated April 7, 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?

Vaccines are being prioritized in stages and where you fall in the list will determine when you might get vaccinated. WDG Public Health is required to prioritize population groups based on Ontario’s 3-phase plan for immunization. This plan is informed by Ontario COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force, Ontario’s Ethical Framework for COVID-19, as well as the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).

We are currently on the tail end of phase 1 and phase 2 eligible population groups have been announced by the Ministry.

Phase 2 vaccine administration will focus on age as the most significant predictor of death or hospitalization from COVID-19, and on risk, with some adjustments for COVID-19 hot spots, specific health conditions, congregate care settings, essential caregivers and workers who cannot work from home. For a full list of those who will be eligible in Phase 2, please see the news release.

During Phase Two, the following groups will be eligible for vaccination:

  • Older adults, between 60-79 years of age;
  • Individuals with specific health conditions and some primary caregivers;
  • People who live and work in congregate settings and some primary caregivers;
  • People who live in hot spots with high rates of death, hospitalizations and transmission; and,
  • Certain workers who cannot work from home.
When it is my turn, how will I know?

Public Health is announcing when the next groups are eligible to pre-register for their appointment - please check the website first. 

Eligible priority groups may be reached in a variety of ways including through your employer or through a public health announcement. You may find out in the media, newspaper ads, radio ads, website, social media or through word of mouth. We are also working with many community partners to get the message out to ensure all those who are eligible will know when their turn comes.

We are currently taking pre-registrations online for Phase 1 and Phase 2 eligible groups. To find out who that is and how to pre-register, visit wdgpublichealth.ca/register.

We ask for your patience as we work to vaccinate people in order of priority. Please do not attend a local vaccination clinic unless you have an appointment.

What happens if it is my turn to get vaccinated and I decide to wait? 

Vaccine supplies are being administered to eligible groups so if you are among these groups, getting your first dose as soon as you are eligible will give you protection and may help protect others. With vaccine supply limited, it may take longer to get the vaccine if you decide later you want it. Pre-registrations and appointment booking will continue to be open for previous phase groups as new phases are open. Everyone is strongly recommended to get the vaccine when it is their turn to help end the pandemic.

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

Primary care providers are offering vaccines to age 55 and older and public health clinics may have limited appointment availability. If you have been contacted by your doctor and can get vaccinated sooner than at a public health clinic, we highly recommend this option.

If you have an appointment booked and decide you would like to get vaccinated at your doctor’s office (if they called you to offer a vaccine), you can cancel your appointment with public health by visiting the link you were sent to confirm your appointment. Detailed instructions on how to cancel can be found at wdgpublichealth.ca/booking.

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 will be supplemented by mobile clinics (locations and dates vary, these are added to the appointment booking site as available). More locations will be available as supply increases. All clinics will follow provincial direction and local decision making for vaccine prioritization. 

Mass vaccination sites will be supplemented by mobile clinics to make sure all WDG residents can receive vaccines as close to where they live as possible and for those that cannot get to a mass vaccination site for an appointment. These are added to the booking site as available or you can call 1-844-780-0202.

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. Physicians are offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to patients 55 and older who they contact directly to book an appointment.

Several pharmacies in the WDG area are now offering vaccines to adults 55 and older. To book an appointment, find a participating pharmacy. The vaccine currently administered by pharmacies is AstraZeneca.

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.
  • Those who are eligible to receive a vaccine at a participating pharmacy (age 60+) can make an appointment at any participating pharmacy, regardless of area of residence.

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.

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?

While there are several different brands of COVID-19 vaccines at this point, just like other vaccines, you cannot choose the specific brand you get.

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

Once the vaccine is offered to you, you should not wait in the hopes that a different vaccine is available at a later date. There is no guarantee that you will get a choice of a specific brand of vaccine at any point.

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-led and partner-led mass vaccination clinic sites 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 at your appointment.

If you have been contacted by your primary care provider to receive a vaccine as part of the primary care pilot, you will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. If you book an appointment at a pharmacy, you will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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 do I know the vaccine is safe?

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Countries around the world have approved the vaccines based on thorough scientific evidence. Hundreds of millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across 121 countries, and 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 to date no serious issues have been found.

 

 

 

 

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
 
How effective is the AstraZeneca vaccine? Is it less effective than other approved COVID-19 vaccines?

The clinical trials for the AstraZeneca vaccine found that the vaccine was about 62 percent effective for people who received two doses of the vaccine. This means that participants who received the vaccine had a 62 percent lower risk for becoming sick with COVID-19, compared to people who received the placebo. It does not mean that 38 percent of people who received the vaccine got COVID-19.

In the clinical trial, none of the participants who received the AstraZeneca vaccine had to go to hospital for COVID-19 or died from COVID-19. The other approved COVID-19 vaccines are also very effective, including the vaccines from Pfizer (95%), Moderna (94%), and Janssen (67%). These estimates come from clinical trials that are designed differently, and these figures should not be compared directly to one another. Additionally, a vaccine’s effectiveness in a clinical trial can be different from its effectiveness in the real world.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is being used in other parts of the world, such as Europe. Studies are being done to determine how effective the vaccine is, and the results so far are encouraging. A study from Scotland, for example, found that a single dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine was 94% effective at preventing COVID-19 hospitalization in the general population, and 81% effective for the oldest adults (age 80 years and older).

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.

Early studies show the vaccines will be effective against the U.K. variant (B.1.1.7) and may be less protective against the South African variant (B.1.351). However, infectious disease experts say the vaccines could still save lives by preventing cases from being severe and requiring hospitalization.

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

You must get the same vaccine for both doses.

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. If you have not received a date for a second dose appointment or your appointment was cancelled, you will hear from WDGPH at a later date when you are eligible to book.

The following groups will continue to receive their second COVID-19 vaccine according to the original recommended schedule (21-28 days). If you fall within one of the medical condition groups below, please speak with your doctor.

  • Long-term care and retirement home residents
  • Transplant recipients (including solid organ transplants and hematopoietic stem cell transplants)
  • Individuals with malignant hematologic disorders and non-hematologic malignant solid tumours receiving active treatment (chemotherapy, targeted therapies, immunotherapy), excluding individuals receiving solely hormonal therapy or radiation therapy.

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?

In alignment with updated NACI recommendations Ontario will not be using the AstraZeneca vaccine for individuals under 55, while the data are being reviewed by Health Canada.

Please find below the links to the Health Canada/PHN statements on the use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in younger adults.

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

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.