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General COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ

How are we preparing for vaccine distribution?

All levels of government are working together to ensure that vaccine distribution will be equitable, effective and efficient.

The Ontario government has developed a three-phase implementation plan to receive, store and administer COVID-19 vaccines to Ontarians as soon as they are received. Phase One began on Tuesday, December 15, 2020 with a pilot project in Toronto and Ottawa. This included the vaccination of over 2,500 health care workers with the Health Canada approved Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The Ontario government has created a Vaccine Distribution Task Force. This task force guides the province’s development and implementation of an immunization program, including the ethical, timely and effective distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in Ontario. The government of Ontario has also been planning with the Prime Minister and Premiers across the country to make sure the vaccine can be distributed as safely and quickly as possible. 

Distribution will depend on the details provided by the federal government about the requirements for specific vaccines like ultra-cold storage, timing of delivery, and populations who will be vaccinated first.

The PHU is proceeding with the vaccination process and is working with many community partners across the district.

Will I need to pay for the COVID-19 vaccine?

No. Federal, provincial and territorial governments will work together to ensure that Canadians have equitable access to publicly funded pandemic vaccines for COVID-19.

Is the vaccine mandatory?

No. This vaccine will not be mandatory in Ontario. However, a record of immunization of COVID-19 vaccine may be required for travel, employment or other purposes.

What can I do now to help protect myself from getting COVID-19 while waiting for a vaccine?

It is important to continue with all public health measures because individual actions make a big difference to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Stay home when sick, even with mild symptoms
  • Maintain physical distancing of 2 metres from people you do not live with
  • Masks are required in indoor public spaces
  • Wear a mask or face covering indoors and outdoors when unable to maintain physical distance
  • Wash you hands often or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow or a tissue. Throw away the tissue right away in a lined waste basket and wash your hands.

I am young and healthy/my family is healthy, should I/we get the vaccine?

By getting vaccinated you are protecting yourself and the community. By avoiding exposing others to the virus, you could be saving a life.

Some people are at higher risk of getting COVID-19 and experiencing more severe outcomes. Even if you aren’t worried about yourself or your family getting sick, you have the chance to protect your community.

The more people who get the COVID-19 vaccine, the more protected the whole community will be.

Is it better to get natural immunity/protection from COVID-19 infection instead of the vaccine?

Vaccines protect people before they come into contact with the disease. Vaccines work in such a way as to train the immune system to build antibodies in the same way as if you were exposed to the disease naturally. Vaccines use harmless or inactive virus or bacteria to trigger the body’s natural immune response to provide protection against a disease, without the risk of getting the disease.

You don’t need to get sick to get antibodies and develop immunity. Vaccines let you skip the sickness and go straight to being protected. Natural infection from certain diseases can kill or seriously harm people before their body is able to develop a strong immune system.

The risk of complications from getting the real disease is far greater than the risk of side effects from vaccines. 

Will the COVID-19 vaccine make me sick with the disease?

The current approved mRNA COVID-19 vaccines cannot make you sick or put you at risk for complications of the actual illness because they do not contain the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus that causes COVID-19).

Vaccines let you skip the sickness and go straight to being protected.

For more safety concerns, visit the Government of Canada website.

What are antibodies? Why are antibodies important?

When a germ (bacteria or virus) enters the body, the immune system meets the germ and makes new antibodies that “remember” that germ. The antibodies stay in your body even after the disease is gone so that the next time the germ enters your body, those antibodies will help fight off the disease before it can make you sick. This is called immunity.

Vaccines protect people before they come into contact with the disease. Vaccines work in such a way as to train the immune system to build antibodies in the same as if you were exposed to the disease naturally. 

Vaccines let you skip the sickness and go straight to being protected.

Can I still get COVID-19 even if I am vaccinated?

There is a small chance that you can still become infected with COVID-19 after being vaccinated. For this reason, it is very important that we continue with public health measures even once vaccinated. Remember to stay home if you are sick, even if your symptoms are mild. 

What vaccines are approved for use in Canada?

There are multiple vaccines approved for use in Canada. Before vaccines are approved, they must be thoroughly evaluated by Health Canada and meet all safety standards. Once vaccines are approved and available to the public, there is ongoing monitoring for safety.

What is an mRNA vaccine?

Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. The mRNA will provide an instruction to the cells in our bodies to make a viral protein from the coronavirus. You can think of the mRNA as a recipe, telling our body how to make a viral protein called a “spike protein”. This protein is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. During this process, our immune system becomes activated and recognizes the spike protein as being different than our body’s natural proteins. This immune response causes antibody production which means the immune system is prepared to protect against future COVID-19 infection. Once we have built our immunity, our body then naturally destroys the spike proteins as they are no longer needed.

The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines approved for use in Canada are mRNA vaccines.

Can an mRNA vaccine alter my DNA?

No. This vaccine does not affect, interact or alter DNA in any way. Our DNA is stored in the nucleus of our cells. The mRNA does not travel into the nucleus, therefore there is no risk of altering DNA. Our body’s natural defence response breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA after our body’s finished with it.

Which vaccine is best?

Each vaccine approved for use in Canada has a different efficacy rate. The efficacy of different vaccines cannot be directly compared. Each vaccine was studied in a different clinical trial which were conducted at different times, using different populations and conditions. The authorized COVID-19 vaccines have not been compared in clinical trials. Having additional vaccines authorized for use in Canada will provide the opportunity to better meet the vaccine dose volume needs so that more people can be vaccinated and protected against COVID-19 sooner. All COVID-19 vaccines are good, and all vaccines will help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause any side effects?

Like with other vaccines, some people have reported side effects after vaccination. The most frequent side effects were pain at the injection site, fatigue and headaches. Some people also reported muscle pain, chills, join pain and fever. The symptoms were generally reported as mild to moderate and resolved within a few days of vaccination.

These types of reactions are considered normal following vaccination and are expected because of our body’s immune response. 

I already tested positive for COVID-19, should I still receive the vaccination?

Yes, even if you tested positive for COVID-19 you should still receive the vaccine.

At this time, it remains unknown how long someone is immune or protected against COVID-19, after testing positive and recovering from the illness. Since COVID-19 can cause severe health outcomes and that re-infection is possible, people who have already tested positive for COVID-19 should still be vaccinated.

How long after a COVID-19 diagnosis do I have to wait until I can get my vaccine?

Re-infection of COVID-19 have rarely been reported within the first three months following diagnosis. To allow for more at-risk individuals to receive protection against COVID-19, it is recommended that individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 delay their COVID-19 vaccine for 3 months.

What if I miss the second dose of a 2-dose vaccine?

There is currently very little information available on the protection that is provided if you do not receive complete immunization (2 doses). If you do not receive your second dose within the recommended timeframe, speak with your health care provider as soon as possible. Effectiveness after two doses is higher than with the first dose, therefore, it remains important to still receive the second dose of vaccine.  

Is it possible to receive two different COVID-19 vaccine products?

The Public Health Agency of Canada is following the updated recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) guidelines which confirms that interchanging mRNA vaccines is safe and effective. This recommendation is based on current scientific evidence and NACI’s expert opinion. Individuals who received dose one of AstraZeneca can choose either AstraZeneca or a mRNA vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer), as per NACI guidelines.

Can I receive other routine vaccines at the same time?

COVID-19 vaccines should not be given at the same time as any other vaccines (live or inactivated).

Can I receive the vaccine if I am pregnant?

Pregnant individuals may choose to receive the vaccine at any time during their pregnancy. However, essential consideration should be made for those in the later stages of their pregnancy.

It is recommended, but not required, that pregnant individuals have discussion with their treating health care provider, or with a health care provider familiar with their pregnancy, that includes:

  • a review of the potential risks and benefits of the vaccine,
  • a review of the risk of acquiring a COVID-19 infection during pregnancy,
  • a review of the potential risks /consequences associated with a COVID-19 infection during pregnancy, and
  • an acknowledgment of the limited evidence from clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines in the pregnant population.  

Please see the COVID-19 Vaccination Recommendations for Special Populations for further details on COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant individuals.

Please Note:

  • A letter from a health care provider is not required for vaccination.
  • The extended dose interval of 16 weeks remains appropriate for this population.

Can I receive the vaccine if I am immunocompromised by disease or treatment?

  • Speak with your health care provider to receive informed counselling about COVID-19 vaccination. The counselling session should include a review of the risks and benefits of the vaccine, a review of the potential risks/consequences of a COVID-19 infection, a review of the risk of acquiring a COVID infection and an acknowledgment of the insufficiency of evidence for the use of current COVID-19 vaccines in these special populations.
  • When you go for your vaccination appointment, you will have to verbally confirm that you have received proper counselling from your health care provider, prior to vaccination. 

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I am feeling unwell?

You should wait until all symptoms of an acute illness are completely resolved before being vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine.

Can I receive the COVID-19 vaccine if I do not have an OHIP card?

Yes, you can still get the COVID-19 vaccine for free if you do not have an Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) card. If you do not have an OHIP card, another form of government-issued photo identification (e.g. driver’s license, passport, Status Card, or other provincial health cards) is acceptable. If you do not have any identification you can still come to the clinic and get the vaccine.

Can anyone receive the COVID-19 vaccine? What if I am visiting from another province, territory, or country? What if I am an international student? What if I am a temporary resident?

Regardless of home address, anyone is welcome to attend the Porcupine Health Unit vaccine clinics to receive the COVID-19 vaccine for free. The goal is to vaccinate as many people as possible against COVID-19 to to protect individuals and the community from COVID-19 infection, severe illness, and the risk of hospitalization and death.

Are there any special circumstances or exceptions to shorten the interval between doses of COVID-19 vaccines?

As the COVID-19 vaccine supply become more readily available, the Ministry continues to announce shortened vaccine intervals.

To find out more second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, including who qualifies for a shortened interval between vaccine doses, visit the Porcupine Health Unit website at Second Doses of the COVID-19 Vaccine (porcupinehu.on.ca) or call the health unit at 705-360-4819 (Timmins) or 1-800-461-1818.

What if I need to move or travel and cannot get my second dose of COVID-19 vaccine at the recommended interval?

The first dose of COVID-19 vaccine provides some protection until the second dose is received. If you do not receive your second dose within the recommended timeframe, speak with a health care provider as soon as possible in the province or country you are in. Effectiveness after two doses is higher than with the first dose, therefore, it remains important to still receive the second dose of vaccine.  

Should I delay getting the COVID-19 vaccine if I am unsure when I will be unable to complete the 2 dose vaccine series?

Effectiveness after two doses is higher than with the first dose so it remains important to complete the vaccine series (2 doses). Even if you are unsure about when you will be able to receive the second dose of vaccine, it is recommended that you get your first dose of vaccine as soon as possible so that you get some protection.

I’ve heard that there have been rare cases of myocarditis and pericarditis after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. What does this mean, and should I still get the vaccine, including my second dose?

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle and pericarditis is inflammation of the lining around the heart. These cases are not known to be related to the vaccine and Canada is not currently seeing higher rates than would be expected for these diagnoses. The investigations to date have not led Ontario, or any other jurisdictions, to change its vaccine guidance.

The Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada are closely monitoring the situation. Available information to date indicates the following:

  • Cases were more commonly reported after the second dose.
  • Symptoms typically appeared within several days following vaccination.
  • Cases were mainly among adolescents and young adults.
  • Cases were among males more often than females.
  • Cases experienced mild illness and symptoms improved quickly (they responded well to conservative treatment and rest).

Informed consent is required for all vaccinations. Individuals eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine who have questions, are encouraged to speak with their health care provider prior to receiving an mRNA vaccine.

All vaccines used in Ontario have been approved by Health Canada and are safe and effective. The Porcupine Health Unit continues to recommend getting your COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is available to you. With the Delta variant circulating in Ontario, all individuals should book an appointment or attend a walk-in clinic as soon as possible for their first dose and their second dose. For more information, visit: https://bit.ly/35ZD507

Where can I get a copy of my COVID-19 vaccination receipt?

Clients are now able to download a digital copy of their COVID-19 vaccination receipts through the provincial Ontario.ca portal. Please visit covid19.ontariohealth.ca and log in using your health card number. For more information, please call 705.674.2299 (toll-free: 1.800.708.2505), between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., seven days a week.

If you received your COVID-19 vaccination outside of Ontario, please call our info-line at 705-360-4829 and we will enter your information into the COVaxON system.