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General COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ

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

No. All COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada are publicly funded(free).

Is the vaccine mandatory?

No. The COVID-19 vaccine is not 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?

Everyone born in 2016 or earlier in Ontario is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. It is highly recommended that everyone who does not have contraindications, series receive two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to be considered fully vaccinated. Certain individuals at higher risk for severe infection with COVID-19 are eligible to receive a third dose of the vaccine for additional protection.

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
  • Masks are required in indoor public spaces
  • 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 the vaccine you could be saving a life. It is strongly recommended that all eligible individuals born in 2016 or earlier receive the full COVID-19 vaccine series. The vaccine will protect you, your family, and friends, as well as lower community spread of the COVID-19 virus which will ultimately help protect everyone, including those most at risk, in 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 everyone around you and the 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 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 response.

COVID-19 variants, such as Delta, make the virus more infectious and transmissible and can also cause more severe illness in those who become infected. With variants spreading locally, it is more important than ever to continue following public health measures as well as receive the COVID-19 vaccine to stop the spread of COVID-19.

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 approved 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?

No vaccine or treatment is 100% guaranteed. COVID-19 vaccines are very effective in preventing asymptomatic and symptomatic infections as well as hospitalizations due to COVID-19. While there is a small chance that you can still become infected with COVID-19 after being vaccinated, evidence indicates that vaccines reduce the severity of illness in the few that will develop symptoms after being fully 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?

Health Canada has approved the following vaccines: 

  • Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine
  • Moderna Spikevax COVID-19 vaccine
  • AstraZeneca Vaxzevria COVID-19 vaccine 
  • Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine

The only vaccines currently available for administration in the Porcupine Health Unit area are the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine.

As with all vaccines and treatments approved in Canada, COVID-19 vaccines must be thoroughly evaluated. Health Canada decides whether to authorize the COVID-19 vaccine and will only do so when the data shows that the vaccine:

  • is safe, effective and of good quality, and
  • demonstrates that the benefits outweigh the risks

Once vaccines are approved and available to the public, there is ongoing monitoring for safety.

How many doses do I need to be considered fully vaccinated? 

You will be considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 14 days after having received your second dose of the vaccine. The Ministry of Health is recommending a booster of a mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) for several additional groups. Individuals eligible for third doses will still be considered fully vaccinated after receiving 2 doses.

How long should I wait after my first dose to get the second? 

It is recommended that the second dose of the vaccine is received 8 weeks after the first dose for a better immune response and higher vaccine effectiveness. However, you will be eligible for your second dose at a minimum interval of 21 days after vaccination. The interval between doses may be extended up to 4 months.

What is an mRNA vaccine?

Both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines approved for use in Canada. 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.

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. 

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

Long-term side effects are extremely unlikely following any vaccination, including COVID-19 vaccination. Vaccine monitoring has historically shown that side effects generally happen within six weeks of receiving a vaccine dose. Millions of people have received COVID-19 vaccines, and no long-term side effects have been detected.

The Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada, drug manufacturers, and provincial and territorial health authorities continue to:

    • monitor the use of all COVID-19 vaccines closely.
    • examine and assess any new safety concerns.

As safety issues are investigated, Health Canada will take appropriate action as needed to address the concern (e.g., a problem with a specific lot number, manufacturing issue, or the vaccine itself). Reports and investigation of safety concerns show that Canada's vaccine safety monitoring system works (9). Health Canada posts weekly reports on vaccine safety.

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, that re-infection is possible and that re-infection risk may be higher with variants of concern, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that people with previous COVID-19 infection received the complete COVID-19 vaccine series.

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

Asymptomatic and symptomatic individuals with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection should wait until the required isolation period has ended and all symptoms have resolved before receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. This is important in order to prevent transmission of COVID-19 to others as well as avoid attributing any complications from the infection to vaccine side effects.

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 (especially against the Delta variant of concern) than with the first dose, therefore, it remains important to 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?

According to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), the COVID-19 vaccines may be given on the same day, or any time before or after, other vaccines for individuals who are born in 2009 or earlier.

Can I receive the vaccine if I am pregnant?

Pregnant individuals are eligible and recommended to be vaccinated, at any stage in pregnancy, as COVID-19 infection during pregnancy can be severe and the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks. Individuals may choose to receive the vaccine at any time during their pregnancy.

It is recommended, but not required, that pregnant individuals have a 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. A letter from a health care provider is not required for vaccination.

The Vaccination in Pregnancy & Breastfeeding Patient Decision-Making Tool can be used by individuals to help make an informed decision about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

Additional information and recommendations on COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy:

 

Can I receive the vaccine if have an autoimmune condition or I am immunocompromised (due to disease or treatment)?

  • Since all approved COVID-19 vaccine in Canada are not live vaccines, they are considered safe in these groups.
  • It is strongly recommended that individuals speak with their  health care provider to receive informed counselling about COVID-19 vaccination, including timing of vaccination in relation to therapy for the underlying health condition and/or treatment modification in view of possible decreased vaccine effectiveness with the use of immunosuppressive therapy.

  • For additional information on organ transplantation, consult the Canadian Society of Transplantation statement on COVID-19 vaccination.
  • For additional information on rheumatology, consult the Canadian Rheumatology Association statement on COVID-19 vaccination.
  • For additional information on inflammatory bowel disease, consult the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology statement on COVID-19 vaccination.
  • For additional information on immunodeficiency conditions consult the COVID-19 resources on the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology webpage.
  • For frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccine and adult cancer patients, consult Cancer Care Ontario.

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 protect individuals and the community from COVID-19 infection, severe illness, and the risk of hospitalization and death.

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 (especially against the Delta variant of concern) 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.

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 males under the age of 30.
  • Cases experienced mild illness and symptoms improved quickly (they responded well to conservative treatment and rest).

As of September 29, 2021, out of an abundance of caution, Ontario issued  a preferential recommendation of the use of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for individuals aged 18-24 years old effective immediately based on the current available analysis from Ontario’s adverse events following immunization (AEFI) surveillance system.This recommendation was based on the advice of Ontario’s Children COVID-19 Vaccine Table, Ontario Vaccine Clinical Advisory Group, and Public Health Ontario and is due to a greater proportion of cases following vaccination with Moderna compared to Pfizer in the 18 to 24 year old age group, particularly among males. The majority of reported cases have been mild with individuals recovering quickly, normally with anti-inflammatory medication. Symptoms have typically been reported to start within one week after vaccination, more commonly after the second dose.

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 vaccinated against COVID-19. 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. 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.