Frequently Asked Questions About the COVID-19 Vaccine

These are answers to COVID-19 vaccine questions for residents and workers in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) region.

General questions about the COVID-19 vaccine:

Questions about COVID-19 vaccine safety:

Questions about how and when the vaccine is being distributed:

General questions about the COVID-19 vaccine

What COVID-19 vaccines are currently available, and how effective are they?

Currently, Health Canada has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 mRNA vaccines for use in Canada. The Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been shown to be about 94-95% effective in preventing illness from COVID-19 in clinical trials. More vaccines will likely be authorized in the near future.

At this time, vaccine supply is limited and is being prioritized for high-risk population groups and caregivers, with more people having access to vaccination as supply increases over the coming months. (For more information, see Questions about how and when the vaccine is being distributed.)

What is an mRNA vaccine?

mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccine; however, researchers have been studying and working with these vaccines for quite some time. mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response. 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.

Like all vaccines, people who are vaccinated gain protection without ever having to risk the serious consequences of getting sick from being exposed to the virus. People also can't get COVID-19 from the vaccine itself. mRNA vaccines do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19.

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines.

What is the COVID-19 shot like?

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are provided in 2 doses by a needle in the upper arm. You should get the first dose as soon as possible. The second dose is given up to 16 weeks after the first dose. It is very important to get both doses. While you have some protection after the first dose, you will have the most protection after getting both doses.

Additional vaccines may be approved for use in the near future, which may or may not require a second dose. Instructions will be provided to you at the time of your vaccination.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory?

The COVID-19 vaccine is not currently mandatory. However, it is strongly recommended for eligible individuals to help protect against the COVID-19 virus, especially for those who are at higher risk of serious illness or death, and for those who work directly with vulnerable people.

Can I still get or transmit COVID-19 after being vaccinated?

The COVID-19 vaccine is very effective at preventing symptoms in people who get it. During clinical trials, the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were shown to be about 94-95% effective in preventing illness from COVID-19 in individuals who received both doses of the vaccine.

There is a small chance that you may still get COVID-19 after being vaccinated. It is important to continue taking public health measures such as physical distancing, wearing a mask, and staying home if you are sick.

It is not known if you can still give the infection to someone who has not been immunized if you have been exposed to the virus.

Why should I get vaccinated if COVID-19 infection has a high survival rate?

COVID-19 can be a serious illness for many people. Among people who are diagnosed with COVID-19 in Canada, about 1 in 13 people require hospitalization, and tragically, about 1 in 40 (~ 2.5%) die.

For some people, symptoms can last for months. These people are called long haulers. The virus can even damage the heart, brain and lungs and increase the risk of long-term health problems. Even young, healthy people can feel unwell for weeks to months following the COVID-19 infection.

The short-term side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are less than the risk and potential long-term health damage caused by the COVID-19 virus.

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

Yes. You will have some immunity from your infection, but no one knows how long it will last. There are cases where people have gotten COVID-19 again before they could get vaccinated. 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.

I have heard there are new strains of the COVID-19 virus. Are the existing vaccines effective against the new strains?

Currently, experts believe the vaccine will work with the new strains. There is no evidence to suggest that the vaccine will not be effective against the new strains, however this is currently being explored through studies.

Will I need to get the vaccine every year or is it just the two doses?

At this time, the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are only administered in two doses, up to 16 weeks apart.

It is not yet known if the vaccine will need to be repeated in the future, as there is not enough information on the long-term protection provided by the vaccine.

If I travel outside of the country after receiving the vaccine, do I still need to isolate for 14 days after returning from my trip?

The Government of Canada strongly advises against non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice. If you do travel outside of Canada, you are required to isolate for 2 weeks immediately upon returning. This requirement remains in effect even if you have had the COVID-19 vaccine. For more information on travel restrictions and requirements, see Travel restrictions, exemptions and advice.

Questions about COVID-19 vaccine safety

Is the vaccine safe?

Yes, all vaccines in use in Canada have been approved by Health Canada. Health Canada only approves a vaccine if very robust scientific data and evidence show that it is both safe and effective. After approval, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada continue to monitor the ongoing safety and effectiveness of all approved vaccines in Canada.

For detailed information on the vaccine and the evidence behind the vaccine approval process, visit the Government of Canada’s website.

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

Some people may experience side effects from the vaccine, but these will likely be mild to moderate and resolve after a few days. The most common side effects include pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, chills and fever.

It is important to receive the second dose even if you experience mild or moderate side effects. You may get the same side effects with your second dose.

Are there any serious side effects?

Serious side effects are very rare. They include:

  • hives
  • swelling of mouth and throat
  • trouble breathing, hoarseness or wheezing
  • a fever over 40C or 104F
  • seizures

If you experience serious side effects, you should seek medical help immediately. Do not get a second dose of the vaccine if you have serious side effects following the first dose. Speak to your healthcare provider for advice.

Can I get COVID-19 from the shot?

No. There is no live COVID-19 in the vaccine.

Will the COVID vaccine change my DNA?

No, the vaccine does not and cannot change your DNA in any way.

Who should not get the vaccine?

People who have allergies to the COVID-19 vaccine ingredients should not be vaccinated. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider if you are unsure.

People who have had a serious allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine (first dose) should not receive a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Right now, the following people should not routinely be offered the COVID-19 vaccine. If you believe you would benefit from being vaccinated talk to your doctor or healthcare provider.

  • Under 16
  • Pregnant women or those trying to get pregnant
  • People who are breastfeeding
  • People with compromised immune systems or autoimmune diseases

You should wait to get the vaccine if you are sick, have COVID-19 or got different vaccine in the past two weeks.

If I had a reaction to a different vaccine in the past, can I still get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Check with your doctor or healthcare provider if you have had a serious allergic reaction to a vaccine in the past. They will look at your medical records and help you make the decision.

Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I have food or seasonal allergies?

Please talk with your physician or healthcare provider to learn if it is safe for you to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

I just got vaccinated for something else. Can I still get the COVID-19 vaccine now?

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 healthcare provider.

Questions about how and when the vaccine is being distributed

When will I be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Due to global supply issues, the vaccine is being distributed in stages until enough doses are available from manufacturers to vaccinate everyone who wants the vaccine.

At this time, the EOHU has received a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines, which are being distributed in accordance with Ontario’s mandated vaccine roll-out plan. For the latest updates on who is scheduled to receive vaccines in the EOHU area, see COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution in the EOHU Region.

Vaccine delivery is expected to accelerate over the coming months. As vaccine stock increases, vaccination will expand to more population groups. It is anticipated that by this fall (or sooner), anyone who wants a vaccine will have access to one.

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

The vaccine schedule will be shared widely with the public and various population groups once it becomes available. For the latest updates on who is scheduled to receive vaccines in the EOHU area, and how information will be shared, see COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution in the EOHU Region.

Why are residents and workers in long-term care and high-risk retirement homes getting the vaccine first?

Residents of long-term care (LTC) and high-risk retirement homes are some of the most vulnerable people in our community, and are at highest risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19. For this reason they are the first priority group for COVID-19 vaccination.

Most residents in these types of homes need assistance with activities of daily living. In order to ensure that they have the help they need, it is vital for workers and essential caregivers in long-term care and retirement homes to remain healthy. Vaccinating workers and essential caregivers against COVID-19 will help protect both them and the residents in their care.

Should I wait for the Moderna vaccine or another vaccine?

No. All COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved by Health Canada are effective. It is important to get the vaccine when it is offered to you, regardless of which brand of vaccine is available.

What happens if it’s my turn to have the vaccine, but I wait to get it?

If it is your turn to be vaccinated, it is important to get the vaccine. If you wait, it may take longer to get the vaccine when you want it. Getting the first dose as soon as possible will give you protection while COVID-19 cases are still very high in the community.

Eastern Ontatio Health Unit / Bureau de santé de l'Ontario