For the most up-to-date information about the vaccines, eligibility and how to get vaccinated, please click here.
Safe and reliable vaccines can help protect you and your family against COVID-19. Three vaccines have been approved for use in Canada: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca. We are sharing everything you need to know about these vaccines so you have the facts to make an informed decision when it's your turn to get vaccinated.
To access culturally relevant and trauma-informed information about COVID-19 vaccinations for First Nations, Inuit and Métis visit Maad'ookiing Mshkiki - Sharing Medicine. Additional COVID-19 information in Indigenous languages can be found here.
General Vaccine Facts
How do the COVID-19 vaccines work?
All of the COVID-19 vaccines get your body to build immunity, or protect you, against the virus without causing the illness. Different vaccines do this in different ways. In the simplest form, the vaccine trains the immune system to recognize COVID-19 and respond quickly if you are ever exposed to the actual COVID-19 virus. For more information, please click here.
Can the vaccines give me COVID-19?
No, none of the vaccines currently approved in Canada can give you COVID-19 or any other infectious disease. Keep in mind it takes a few weeks for your body to build immunity after getting a COVID-19 vaccination. As a result, it's possible that you could become infected with the actual virus that causes COVID-19 just before or after being vaccinated, but the illness is not a result of the vaccine.
Are the COVID-19 vaccines free?
Yes, the vaccines are free.
Should I go for COVID-19 testing if I had my vaccine in the past few days and have symptoms?
Yes. If you are experiencing any side effects such as fever, headache, chills or fatigue you should remain off work and go to an assessment centre for testing. Please click here to find a testing centre near you.
When will it be my turn to get the vaccine?
In Ontario, phase one of the government rollout plan includes:
- patient-facing healthcare workers
- long-term care staff and residents
- some Indigenous populations
- adults over the age of 80 years old
- people experiencing homelessness
From there, the province will broaden the criteria to more groups including older adults, essential workers both inside and outside the healthcare sector, and those with medical conditions that might make them more at-risk of catching COVID-19.
The federal government expects to vaccinate all adults across the country who wish to have the vaccine by the fall of 2021.
I’m don’t think I am at risk for COVID-19 due to my age/health. Should I still get vaccinated?
Yes, because everyone is at risk for COVID-19. Even young and healthy people can contract COVID-19 and have serious symptoms, including long-term effects on your brain, heart, and/or lungs. There is currently no way to know who will or will not get these symptoms. Even if you personally don’t develop a severe COVID-19 infection, you may still pass on the virus to someone who could. If you are vaccinated, you’re helping to keep you – and the people around you – safe.
Should I get the vaccine even if I've already had COVID-19?
Yes, people who have already had COVID-19 should still get a COVID-19 vaccine. While getting COVID-19 might offer some protection from getting infected again, it's not clear how long this protection lasts or how effective it is. We do know that getting infected again is possible and COVID-19 can cause severe medical complications.
Do I have to continue to mask and distance after I’ve had the vaccine?
After you get the vaccine, you must continue to follow public health recommendations including:
- Washing your hands or use hand sanitizer
- Physical distancing
- Wearing a mask where required
This is because it takes time for the vaccine to become effective and we want to encourage others to maintain safety protocols who may not have had the vaccine yet. We expect data soon on whether the vaccine prevents infection rather than just serious disease, and therefore also reduces or stops the risk of passing the virus to others. Regardless, public health recommendations may not relax until the large majority of the population have been vaccinated.
If I’m pregnant, breastfeeding or immunosuppressed, should I get the vaccine?
We don't have data on these populations since they were excluded from the trials. However, expert groups have judged that for the large majority of people the benefits of the vaccine currently far outweigh any possible risks.
Before booking a vaccination, you are encouraged to have a conversation with your healthcare provider about the risks vs. benefits of taking the vaccine. You will be required to indicate that you have had this discussion with your doctor or specialist at the time of vaccination. The staff at the vaccine clinic will also be able to answer any questions you may have.
Additional Resource: Information Tool - COVID-19 Vaccination During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Why do I need two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine?
The first dose helps your body recognize the virus and get your immune system ready, the second dose strengthens that response. Based on the trial results, after the second dose the Pfizer Bio-NTech and Moderna vaccines have an efficacy rate of 94-95%. The AstraZeneca vaccine had an efficacy rate of 64% in the clinical trials, but more recent trials have put that number over 80%. Current guidance is that we should follow the two-dose protocol to achieve this level of protection in all.
If I get vaccinated, can I still pass the virus to someone else?
Scientists don’t know yet, so those who are vaccinated still need to take the necessary precautions to keep others safe, including wearing a mask, practicing social and physical distancing and hand washing or hand sanitizing.
Vaccine Safety & Effectiveness
- Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe?
Do the COVID-19 vaccines contain mercury, formaldehyde, aluminum or fetal cells?
No. The COVID-19 vaccines do not contain mercury, formaldehyde, aluminum or fetal cells.
How effective are the COVID-19 vaccines?
Pfizer-BioNTech: 95% effective after two doses
Moderna: 94% effective after two doses
AstraZeneca: 62% effective after two doses, but more recent trials have put that number over 80%
What are the possible side effects of a COVID-19 vaccine?
The COVID-19 vaccines can cause mild side effects after the first or second dose, including:
- Pain, redness or swelling where the shot was given
- Muscle or joint pain
- Fever or Chills
You will be monitored for 15 minutes after getting a COVID-19 vaccine to see if you have an immediate reaction. Most side effects happen within the first three days after vaccination and typically last only one to two days.
Fever or chills are relatively rare and if experienced, should prompt you to get a test for COVID-19.
Have the COVID-19 vaccines been tested in people of colour or other minority groups?
Yes, visible minority groups were included in the clinical trials.
Vaccine Eligibility & Distribution
Can everyone now get the COVID-19 vaccines?
The rollout of vaccination across Ontario is guided by the provincial vaccine plan. Currently, due to the limited availability of the vaccine, the plan is focused on phase one which includes vaccinating the following high-risk individuals:
- residents, staff, essential caregivers (including family caregivers) and other employees in congregate living settings for seniors
- health care workers, including hospital employees, staff who work or study in hospitals and health care personnel
- adults in First Nations, Métis and Inuit populations
- adult recipients of chronic home health care
- adults over the age of 80
- people experiencing homelessness
More information will be posted as the provincial government moves to the subsequent phases of the plan.
Are there enough COVID-19 vaccines for Canadians?
Yes, Canada has ordered more than enough vaccines – more vaccines per capita than any other country in the world and large amounts of vaccine are expected to arrive in Canada later in the spring. To ensure we can vaccinate everyone as quickly as possible, it’s important that you access the vaccine the first time it’s offered to you. For more information, please refer to this guide.
Have the COVID-19 vaccines been approved for children?
The vaccines have not yet been approved for those under the age of 16 years old. Research is underway to determine when children can be vaccinated. Ontario Ministry of Health guidelines indicate that some adolescents may be offered the vaccine if it is determined that benefits outweigh risks.
Vaccine Comparisons, Development & Approval
Did scientists and the government skip steps to rush vaccine production and approval?
No steps were skipped in the process of developing, testing, approving and producing the vaccines. Health Canada has thoroughly reviewed all of the data before approving the vaccines as safe and effective for Canadians. The vaccines were produced faster than before, not because of skipped steps but because of high levels of collaboration and funding from around the world.
How were the approved COVID-19 vaccines developed so quickly?
Messenger RNA vaccines (also called mRNA vaccines) are able to be made quickly by a simpler process than is required for some other types of vaccines. mRNA vaccines are like CD players that can play any kind of CD – classical music, rap or pop. The scientists had the CD player before COVID-19 hit. Once they figured out the Coronavirus CD, they could place it into the player and develop the vaccine a lot faster than before, since they used what was already known and built on it. mRNA vaccines do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19.
What are the differences between the approved vaccines?
The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines use mRNA technology, which teaches our cells how to make a protein, or even just a piece of it, that will help our immune system respond. That immune system response eventually makes antibodies, which help protect us from getting sick from COVID-19.
The AstraZeneca vaccine works differently because it's an adenovirus-based vaccine. The adenovirus is altered to carry a gene for the coronavirus protein, which then trains your immune system to recognize the actual coronavirus if it enters into your system.
The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines must be stored at much colder temperatures than the AstraZeneca vaccine. The Moderna vaccine must be stored at -25 to -15 degrees Celcius, the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine must be stored at -70 degrees Celcius and the AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored at 2 to 8 degrees Celcius, making it the easiest to ship and keep.
Do the vaccines have different dosages?
No. Regardless of which vaccine you receive, you will need 2 doses.