Answers to your COVID-19 Vaccine Questions

Updated February 25, 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 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).

Our approach also considers local COVID-19 data as well as how much vaccine we expect to receive and how quickly we can distribute and administer it. We are collaborating with local hospitals, primary care and other community partners across our region on vaccination rollout plans. According to the province’s and our local immunization plan, everyone who wants a vaccine should be able to get one by this fall.

How will I know when it is my turn to get the vaccine?

While vaccine supplies are extremely limited, Public Health is reaching out to priority groups to pre-register those eligible so when vaccine supplies are available, we can efficiently arrange appointments and get people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Eligible priority groups may be reached in a variety of ways including through your employer or through a public announcement. We are working with many community partners to ensure all those who are eligible will know when their turn comes.

We are currently taking pre-registrations online for the next priority 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.

Who is being prioritized for vaccines right now and who is next?

A list of immediate and next priority groups for Phase 1 can be found on the Ontario government website. We are currently in Phase 1 of the vaccine rollout.

Locally, WDGPH has established a COVID-19 Vaccine Sequence Strategy Task Force. The Task force is responsible for providing recommendations to the Medical Officer of Health for the prioritization of populations within Phase 1 for receiving the vaccine.

Task Force members represent many sectors in the community including municipal government, business, mental health and addictions, primary care, dentistry, pharmacy, allied health professionals, academia and social justice.

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

Can I pre-register for a vaccine appointment?

Pre-registration is now available to priority groups only. If you are a member of an eligible priority group as listed at wdgpublichealth.ca/register, you may pre-register. We encourage everyone to register online as it will be the quickest and easiest way to provide your information. However, if you are having trouble registering, you may also call 519-822-2715 ext. 4506. Please note call volumes are very high.

Where will vaccinations take place?

Vaccinations will be provided at the Public Health office in Guelph initially, followed by on-site vaccinations in long-term care homes and at hospitals.

Local mass vaccination will be achieved through a variety of immunization clinics allowing for as many as 10,000 vaccines to be administered daily in our region as soon as vaccine is available in that quantity. The three basic clinic structures for the program include: 

  • Public Health-led hub clinics located at:
  • Public Health-led mobile clinics, supported by partners such as the Guelph-Wellington Paramedic Services, County of Dufferin Paramedic Services and local Family Health Teams, will administer vaccines to target rural communities and vulnerable populations. 
  • Partner-led clinics headed by the Guelph Family Health Team, University of Guelph and Linamar. 

All public health-led and partner-led clinics will follow provincial direction and local decision making for vaccine prioritization.  

WDGPH is continuing to work with local Family Health Teams around additional partnerships to increase immunization capacity in our community.

What if I am unable to get to a mass vaccination site for an appointment?

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.

Will I be able to get vaccinated at my doctor’s office or at a pharmacy?

Vaccines are currently available to priority groups through mass vaccination clinics sites and mobile clinics. As vaccine supplies increase, vaccination sites will be expanded to include healthcare providers and pharmacies. New sites will be announced as they become available. For now, we ask that you pre-register if you are part of the eligible priority groups and you will be booked for an appointment at one of the available sites.

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 (infants)
    • 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.

Who should talk to their 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 vaccine 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.

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

Vaccine supplies are being administered to priority groups so if you are among these groups, getting your first dose as soon as you are eligible will give you protection and help protect others you are in contact with. With vaccine supply limited, it may take longer to get the vaccine if you decide later you want it. Everyone is strongly recommended to get the vaccine when it is their turn.

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 82 countries, and millions of doses per day continue to be administered to a diverse range of people. The vaccine is 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 COVID-19 vaccines have been approved in Canada and how do they work? 

There are two vaccines approved for use in Canada so far: 

  • Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Studies have shown this vaccine has an efficacy rate of 95%. This means that about 95% of people who get the vaccine are protected from an infection with the COVID-19 virus. This vaccine is for people age 16 and older. It requires two injections given 21 days apart. The second dose can be given up to six weeks after the first dose, if needed. 

  • Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. This vaccine has an efficacy rate of 94.1%. This vaccine is for people age 18 and older. It requires two injections given 28 days apart. The second dose can be given up to six weeks after the first dose, if needed. 

mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response without using the live virus that causes COVID-19. Once triggered, our body then makes antibodies. These antibodies help us fight the infection if the real virus does enter our body in the future.

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

Each ingredient is necessary for the mRNA — 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. These vaccines 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 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 is the vaccine administered?

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

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

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 2-3 days or COVID-19 symptoms start to develop? 

The side effects may be similar to signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and mild symptoms are normal - like headache, fatigue, muscle aches and joint pains. However, if symptoms last more than 2-3 days after getting vaccinated or you start to develop symptoms that interfere with your daily activities (like high fever, loss of taste and smell or respiratory symptoms), you may have been exposed to COVID-19 prior to being vaccinated. In this case, please follow public health measure and get tested and isolate immediately. The vaccine cannot infect you with COVID-19.

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 long-term side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine? 

The medical and scientific community is confident in the long-term safety of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines and it is not expected to have long-term negative effects for several reasons: 

  • Researchers have been studying and working with mRNA vaccines for decades. mRNA vaccines have been studied before for flu, Zika, rabies, and cytomegalovirus (CMV). Cancer research has used mRNA to trigger the immune system to target specific cancer cells. Decades of studying mRNA have shown no long-term side-effects. 
  • Most negative effects occur within 6 weeks of receiving a vaccine and Health Canada received two months of data after the second dose. Clinical trial participants will be followed for at least 2 years after the second dose and manufacturers are required to report any safety concerns to Health Canada. 
  • The mRNA only does it’s work for a short time. It stops making the protein within about a week and breaks down quickly in the body. 

The short-term safety data on the mRNA COVID vaccines and long-term data on other mRNA vaccines show them to be safe and effective.

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. 

If I tested positive for COVID-19 in the past, should I still get the vaccine?

Yes. 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.

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 a choice of the type of vaccine I receive?

No. Vaccines will be administered based on what is available and determined by your vaccine provider. All approved vaccines available are safe and effective.

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.

Will the vaccine be 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). 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. New information about these variants is rapidly emerging.

Do I still need to get tested for COVID-19 if I develop symptoms 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. There are several reasons this is important:

  • It takes about 2 weeks for your body to gain protection from the COVID-19 vaccine. This means that if you contracted COVID-19 before getting the vaccine, or within the 2 week period following the vaccine, you may still get sick from COVID-19. If you experience symptoms of COVID-19 after you’ve been vaccinated, you should still get tested.
  • The vaccine won’t stop everyone from getting COVID-19. For those who do get the virus, it is less likely you will experience severe illness.
  • The vaccine is 95% effective, but you could be in the 5% that don’t have immunity. You can still spread COVID-19 if you touch things and don’t wash your hands or interact with people in close proximity.

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

Will the COVID-19 vaccine be made mandatory?

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

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

The pandemic is unlikely to end suddenly. 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.