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COVID Vaccine

Ontario’s doctors answer COVID-19 vaccine questions

Getting a COVID-19 vaccination is one of the most important and effective things Ontarians can do to stop the pandemic. Ontario’s doctors are sharing their expert advice to ensure Ontarians have the information they need to keep their families safe and healthy.

For information about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout visit the government on Ontario’s website.

Here are the top COVID-19 vaccine questions and answers:

COVID Vaccine

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

All vaccine candidates are heavily scrutinized in clinical trials and by Health Canada. The approval process is rigorous. Even after approval, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada continue to monitor the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

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Who will get the vaccine first?

The government of Ontario has implemented a three-phase vaccination plan that details who is eligible to receive the vaccine, who will administer the vaccines and the timeline for each phase. For more information on the vaccine rollout in Ontario, visit the government’s COVID-19 vaccine website.

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Where will we go to get the vaccine? When is it our turn?

Mass vaccination sites, family doctors’ offices and pharmacies are all administering COVID-19 vaccines. Where you get vaccinated depends on several factors including your region and your priority for receiving the vaccine as defined by the provincial vaccination plan.

As of March 13, family doctors in certain regions have a role in administering the AstraZeneca vaccine. Doctors will contact their highest-risk patients with details. Please do not call your doctor to book an appointment for the vaccine. Doctors need to keep phone lines open for sick patients who have immediate questions.

For more information about COVID-19 vaccine administration sites, visit the government of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine website.

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Why are children not eligible for this vaccine? How will we achieve herd immunity if we cannot vaccinate children for another year?

The vaccine is approved for people 16 years of age and older. Clinical trials are underway for those age 12 to 15, and under 12. It is likely children will be involved in Phase Three of the vaccine distribution scheduled to begin in July, after further clinical trials.

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Is the vaccine safe for pregnant and breastfeeding individuals?

Pregnant and breastfeeding individuals may choose to receive the vaccine after counselling by their treating health care provider, or by a health care provider familiar with their pregnancy. If, after this counselling, the pregnant/breastfeeding individual feels the potential benefits of vaccination outweigh the potential harms, they should be able to access the vaccine. Verbal confirmation that the client received counselling should be provided at the time of vaccination as part of informed consent to receive the vaccine. Learn more.

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What will I feel like after the vaccine? What are the side effects?

You can expect to feel similar to what you feel after receiving the flu vaccine. In the short term, you may experience minor symptoms such as localized swelling or pain at the injection site. You can also feel unwell or get a headache or fever that lasts a few days.

COVID Vaccine

I have heard that people who have experienced anaphylaxis or allergies should not take the vaccine? Who else should not take the vaccine?

Health Canada recommends those who have experienced anaphylaxis should avoid the vaccine only if they’ve had an allergic reaction to the first dose of the two-dose regime, or those allergic to one of the components. Pregnant and breastfeeding individuals may choose to receive the vaccine after counselling by their treating health care provider, or by a health care provider familiar with their pregnancy.

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How does the mRNA vaccine work and what do we know about this new technology?

Pfizer and Moderna are both mRNA vaccines. After receiving a mRNA vaccine, your body makes a protein to trick your body into thinking it’s infected. Your body generates an antibody, an immune response it will remember if it encounters the virus in the future. While this is a new vaccine, it is not new technology. The messenger RNA response has been used for other medical treatments.

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Why do we need two shots, and when can we consider ourselves protected?

The level of immune response begins to show 10-14 days after the first dose, but clinical trials show that to receive the best response and optimal immunity, two doses are required up to four months apart.

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How long will this vaccine protect us? Will we need to get it annually like the flu shot? How is the COVID-19 vaccine different from the flu vaccine?

We do not know how long it will protect us, but the vaccine will continue to be studied to understand if we require annual vaccines, as we do with the flu shot. The flu vaccine triggers an immune response with a weakened or inactivated virus, whereas the COVID-19 vaccine allows our cells to make a protein that triggers an immune response and produce antibodies that protects us from getting infected.

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How soon after getting the vaccine can we return to life before COVID-19?

It may take months or even years to see a dramatic decline in cases following the vaccine. Until we see a significant impact on the pandemic, public health and all levels of government will continue to mandate COVID-19 precautions such as physical distancing, wearing masks and frequent hand washing.

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Should I get the vaccine?

Yes. Ontario’s doctors trust the COVID-19 vaccines because they are safe and they work. We encourage the public to receive the vaccine when they are able to. Ask your doctor to learn more.