Frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccination

Last revised on August 18, 2023

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COVID-19 Booster Doses

Why should I get a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Booster doses of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines help restore protection that may have decreased over time. Booster doses help protect against getting very sick from COVID-19 including against hospitalization and death.

What is the difference between a “three-dose primary series” and a “booster dose”?

A ‘three-dose’ primary series refers to a series of three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to make up a primary series offered to those who are immunocompromised or vulnerable. A third dose is added to the standard “primary vaccine series” to improve the immune response and establish an adequate level of protection for those who did not develop immunity or did not develop an optimal immune response after a 2-dose primary series.  

In short – a primary series for most healthy people remains 2-doses, and for these people, a third (booster) dose is offered to boost the immune system. A three-dose primary series is offered to those who are immunocompromised to ensure they have an adequate immune response and are protected.  

Do I need a booster dose if I had COVID-19 recently and have some natural immunity? 

COVID-19 vaccination, including booster doses, are recommended for everyone regardless of previous COVID-19 infection. Review the booster eligibility here.
Each person’s immune response from a COVID-19 infection can differ. Developing immunity from infection, sometimes called “natural immunity,” requires exposure to an unpredictable virus with known serious consequences including risk of severe illness and death.
Receiving a booster dose even if you have had a COVID-19 infection helps improve the immune response and protect against getting very sick including hospitalization and death.

How soon can I get a booster dose after a COVID-19 infection or suspected infection?

People who have had a previous COVID-19 infection are still recommended to receive a booster.   

It is recommended to wait for six months (168 days) after symptoms started or after testing positive (if no symptoms were experienced) before receiving a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine.   

However, people may receive their booster when they have completed their isolation and are asymptomatic (no symptoms) with informed consent. 

  • For the purposes of COVID-19 vaccination, a previous COVID-19 infection includes people who received a positive COVID-19 test result (either a PCR or Rapid Antigen Test) or who were a household contact of a confirmed case and had COVID-19 symptoms. 

Vaccine receipts 

How do I get a copy of my ‘vaccine receipt’ after I have been vaccinated?

After each dose of the COVID-19 vaccine that you get, you will be able to log into the provincial portal to download and or print an electronic COVID-19 vaccine receipt. 

You will need the following to log into the provincial portal:

A green photo health (OHIP) card (you will need the numbers from the front and back of the card, expired cards will be accepted)

Your date of birth

Your postal code that is associated with your health card

  • Red and white health card: call the Provincial Vaccine Booking line at 1-833-943-3900. You will be emailed a copy of the vaccine receipt after your request.
  • Individuals who do not have a health card but were immunized in Ontario and need proof of vaccination can call 613-691-5505 and listen to the options.
  • Individuals who do not have access to a computer and printer can drop into any of our Neighbourhood Vaccination Hubs where an OPH staff can help to download and print your vaccination receipt.

Can Ottawa Public Health upload vaccine exemptions documents to the Verify Ontario app, so I can use my QR code to show proof my medical or clinical exemption?

Any person who has a medical exemption to COVID-19 vaccines will need a provincially issued digital QR Code to access certain businesses and settings that voluntarily require proof of vaccination. Medical exemptions to obtain the QR code can only be granted by physicians and nurse practitioners licensed in Ontario. Once proper documentation is received from a physician or nurse practitioner Ottawa Public Health can generate the QR codes.

As per provincial guidance, true medical exemptions are expected to be infrequent and should be supported by expert consultation. Further information is available for physicians and health care professionals.

Can I update my vaccine receipt with my chosen name?

Trans and non-binary people living in Ontario who have not updated their health card with their chosen name can request that their proof of vaccine certificate reflect their chosen name. Ottawa residents can either request this change by dropping in at any Ottawa Public Health COVID -19 vaccine clinic, or online.

To request this change online, complete this form.

Please bring original copies of the following documentation with you to request this change in person. Scanned copies of the following original documents will be accepted for online submissions:

  • Documentation that matches the information we currently have on file:
    • This document or combination of documents must include: your date of birth and another identifier such as your former first and last names, your health card number, your address, your phone number, your family doctor’s name, or your email address that matches what we currently have on file.
    • If you are 18 years and older, this documentation must also include photo ID.
  • Documentation to indicate your chosen name:
    • This document or combination of documents must include your date of birth and your chosen name.
    • If you are 18 years and older, this documentation must also include photo ID.
  • The following documents or combination of documents are considered acceptable forms of ID to complete this change:
    • Driver’s license
    • Ontario photo card
    • Ontario Health Card
    • Birth certificate
    • Passport
    • Piece of registered mail
    • Pay stub
    • Student card
    • Library card
    • Club or organization ID cards
    • Government issued identification from other jurisdictions including foreign passports, other provincial or territorial health cards, or driver’s licenses


Am I eligible for in-home vaccination?
  • If you have a health condition or special needs that prevents you from visiting a local clinic, pharmacy, or your primary care provider to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, a team can come to your home to offer vaccination to you and to your caregiver. 
  • Please call 613-691-5505 to request an in-home vaccination. 
  • A nurse will contact you to assess your eligibility and obtain more information to book a date and time. 
How do I make a request if I require disability-related accommodations?

If you require additional disability-related accommodations, please fill out this COVID-19 Vaccine accessibility assessment form at least 48 hours in advance of your appointment. With less than 48 hours, Ottawa Public Health will strive to meet all accommodation needs, however, may not be able meet all requirements. 

Should you need assistance in completing the accommodation request form, please contact Ottawa Public Health at 613-691-5505.

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Novavax (Nuvaxovid) COVID-19 vaccine

What is a recombinant protein subunit vaccine?

A recombinant protein subunit vaccine is a type of vaccine that uses harmless and purified proteins of the virus to trigger an immune response in the body. The immune response means our body will recognize and fight the virus if ever exposed. Some protein subunit vaccines, such as Novavax, also have adjuvants. An adjuvant is a substance that is added to the vaccine to help create a stronger and longer lasting immune response. 

These types of vaccines cannot cause COVID-19. They only use small, purified pieces of proteins to trigger the immune response, and do not contain the virus itself.  

Protein subunit vaccines are already used for other vaccine preventable diseases, such as the Hepatitis B vaccine.   

Eligibility for the Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine

The mRNA vaccines remain the recommended vaccine to offer to eligible individuals. Individuals receive the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine if they are eligible and meet the following criteria: 

  • Are 12 years of age or older if receiving a dose in a primary series
  • Are 18 years of age or older if receiving a booster dose
  • Live, work, or attend school in Ottawa 
  • Do NOT have a confirmed allergy to any of the vaccine components or its container (the vial stopper is bromobutyl rubber which is latex free). Please see Health Canada for a full list of vaccine ingredients.   
  • Not able to receive an mRNA vaccine due to contraindications, or would prefer not to receive an mRNA vaccine

Please see the Vaccination of specific populations FAQ for more information on the NACI recommendations for specific populations.

How can I get the Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine?

You cannot book through the provincial portal. Booking will be through your local public health unit. Use this online form to register for a Novavax COVID-19 vaccine.

Common side effects of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine

It is common to have temporary side effects after getting vaccinated.  

At the injection site:  

  • Redness, soreness, swelling  

General symptoms:  

  • Chills 
  • Fatigue 
  • Joint pain 
  • Headache 
  • Mild fever  
  • Muscle aches 
  • Nausea and vomiting  
What information is there regarding Myocarditis and or pericarditis following vaccination?

The clinical trial data shows that there have been mild cases of myocarditis and or pericarditis reported after receiving the Novavax Nuvaxovid COVID-19 vaccine. According to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), it is unclear whether these cases are indicative of a safety signal. Post-market safety surveillance, which is routinely done, is required to determine whether this is an adverse event of interest associated with Novavax Nuvaxovid. 

For more information see Ministry of Health COVID-19 Vaccine Guidance and COVID-19 vaccine: Canadian Immunization Guide  

Vaccination of specific populations

Please see the COVID-19 vaccine: Canadian Immunization Guide.

According to NACI, the safety and efficacy of Novavax Nuvaxovid have not been established in the following populations: 

  • Individuals previously infected with SARS-CoV-2; 
  • Individuals who are immunocompromised due to disease or treatment; 
  • Individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding; 
  • Individuals who have an autoimmune condition. 

Informed consent should include discussion that there is currently limited evidence on the use of the Novavax Nuvaxovid in these populations, while there is evidence on the safety profile and effectiveness of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in these populations based on real world use with large numbers of individuals.  

NACI will continue to monitor the evidence and update recommendations as needed.

Are there any contraindications or special precautions for the Novavax vaccine?

At the time of approval, there are no known serious warnings or precautions associated with the Novavax Nuvaxovid COVID-19 vaccine. 

Allergy to ingredients in a vaccine or its container is considered a contraindication. A potential allergen found in the Novavax vaccine is polysorbate 80. This is found in several medical preparations like vitamin oils, tablets, anticancer agents, and also in cosmetic products. For a full list of ingredients please see Novavax Nuvaxovid COVID-19 vaccine

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Vaccines received outside of Canada, Ontario or Ottawa, or through a Federal program

I have received one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine while in a different province or country. What should I do?

If you have received one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine outside of the Province of Ontario, you may provide your proof of immunization to Ottawa Public Health. Complete the COVID-19 Out of Province Dose Documentation form to notify Ottawa Public Health of your out of province dose administration, and upload the documentation you have received.

Do not use this form to submit medical exemption information.

This form is to be completed by City of Ottawa residents only.

If you live outside of Ottawa, but within Ontario, contact your local public health unit to submit proof of your out of province vaccination.

If you are visiting Ottawa, you do not need to complete this form. If you are visiting from outside of Canada, please consult the Government of Canada's entry requirements.

I received one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine through a Federal program while in the province of Ontario (for example military, global affairs or embassy vaccination clinic). How do I ensure my vaccination is recorded in Ontario?

If you have received one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine through a Federal program while in the province of Ontario, (for example global affairs or embassy vaccination clinics) you may complete the Ontario COVID-19 Vaccine Form for Federal Programs.

Regular Force Canadian Armed Forces members do not require their vaccinations to be recorded in Ontario. The Canadian Armed Forces proof of vaccination is recognized as valid proof of vaccination in Ontario and no further action is required.

Do not use this form to submit medical exemption information.

What can I expect once I submit my proof of vaccination form?

You will receive an electronic vaccine receipt to the email provided on the electronic submission form once it is processed.

An Ottawa Public Health nurse will contact you if we have questions about your submission.

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Pregnancy and COVID-19 Vaccines

I am pregnant. Should I get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccination with an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (including booster doses) is strongly recommended during pregnancy. Getting vaccinated, as soon as possible, is the safest choice to protect yourself and your baby from the known risks of COVID-19 infection. Several studies have shown that receiving mRNA COVID-19 vaccines right before and/or at any stage of pregnancy has no impact on pregnancy outcomes.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends you get a complete series with an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine if you're pregnant or breastfeeding and stay up to date on booster doses.

What are the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination for you and your baby?

Getting the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine helps prevent serious illness, hospitalization, and complications from COVID-19 infection.
Getting the vaccine helps prevent complications or bad outcomes for parent and baby. Most pregnant people who get COVID-19 will have mild symptoms. However, pregnant people are at an increased risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 including needing to be hospitalized and admitted to the intensive care unit compared to those who are not pregnant.
People who have a COVID-19 infection in pregnancy are also at increased risk of giving birth too early (preterm birth), having a caesarean delivery and having a baby admitted into a neonatal intensive care unit.

What are the side effects of receiving an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine?

Pregnant and breastfeeding individuals who receive the mRNA (Comirnaty/Pfizer-BioNtech or Moderna) vaccines experience the same side effects of vaccination as non-pregnant individuals.
Common side effects after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine are pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, and muscle pain. This is caused by the immune system’s normal response to the vaccine. These side effects usually last a few days and go away on their own.
Looking for more information? See the:

What if I am planning a pregnancy?

There is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines have any effect on your fertility or chances of becoming pregnant. Fertility treatment is not a medical reason that prevents you from getting vaccinated. 

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I am concerned about reports of myocarditis or pericarditis following the COVID-19 vaccine. What information is there?

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle. Pericarditis is an inflammation of the lining around the heart. Symptoms can include: 

  • chest pain 

  • shortness of breath 

  • heart palpitations (fluttering or pounding of the heart) 

There have been reports of myocarditis and/or pericarditis after immunization with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in Canada and internationally. Cases of myocarditis and/or pericarditis occur more often in people under 30 years of age, more often in males than in females, and more often after a second dose of an mRNA vaccine than after a first or booster dose. The risk of myocarditis/ pericarditis is rare, and events usually occur within a week after vaccination and mostly have been mild with a quick recovery.  

According to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI):

For people aged 5 to 29 years receiving an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine primary series: 

  • The use of Comirnaty/Pfizer-BioNtech is preferred to Moderna Spikevax to start or continue the mRNA primary vaccine series. 

  • The second dose of mRNA vaccine should be provided eight weeks after the first dose as a longer interval between doses is associated with higher vaccine effectiveness and potentially lower risk of myocarditis/pericarditis. 

NACI further states that the known risks of COVID-19 illness (including complications like myocarditis/pericarditis) outweigh the potential harms of having an adverse reaction following mRNA vaccination, including the rare risk of myocarditis or pericarditis which despite hospitalization, is relatively mild and resolves quickly in most individuals. 

People aged 30 years or older can receive either mRNA vaccines (Comirnaty/Pfizer-BioNtech or Moderna) to start or continue the mRNA vaccine primary series given that this age group has a lower risk of vaccine-associated myocarditis/pericarditis. People 18 years of age and older can receive a booster dose with any available mRNA COVID-19 vaccine as to date, there has not been a difference between Pfizer and Moderna in terms of the risk of myocarditis and/or pericarditis following booster doses.

The majority of reported cases have been mild with individuals recovering quickly, normally with anti-inflammatory medication. 

Get medical attention immediately if you develop any of the following symptoms: 

  • chest pain 

  • shortness of breath 

  • feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heart 

Report any adverse events after immunization to your healthcare provider. 

Can getting a COVID-19 vaccine affect menstruation or fertility?

It is not clear if the COVID-19 vaccine can affect your periods. But getting sick with COVID-19 can affect your periods. Studies looking at whether there is a link between menstrual cycles and the COVID-19 vaccine are underway. As per the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, if COVID-19 vaccines do affect the menstrual cycle, it would be expected to affect only one to two cycles. Getting sick can affect your periods and severe illnesses like COVID-19 can affect your cycle for much longer. 

Fertility, the ability to get pregnant, is not affected by vaccines. During the years that someone could get pregnant, precaution should be taken with certain live virus vaccines. This is because of theoretical risk to the fetus, not because fertility could be affected. An example of a live virus vaccine is the measles vaccine. 

The COVID-19 vaccines in use are not live virus vaccines. There is no biological reason to believe that the current COVID-19 vaccines would impact someone’s fertility. The U.S. has safety data of over 35,000 pregnant women who received COVID-19 vaccine. This data has not identified any safety concerns with getting an mRNA vaccine within 30 days of conception. NACI has recommended that you do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination with an mRNA vaccine. An individual may receive all doses for which they are eligible during the course of a pregnancy.

Male fertility: millions of men worldwide have received the COVID-19 vaccines. There is no evidence to date that shows that getting a COVID-19 vaccine could lead to fertility loss. We do know that all vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccines, can cause a brief fever in some people. Significant fever from any cause (e.g., if you get the flu) may have a temporary impact on sperm count and quality. But, this effect is only temporary. Some studies have shown that if you get COVID-19, it may affect the quality of your sperm. It is unclear how long this effect lasts.  

What do I do if I or someone I support has a needle phobia or fear but would still like to get a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic?

If you or someone you are supporting has a needle fear, phobia or anxiety, community clinic staff can support. 

To accommodate individuals with severe needle phobia, please fill out the COVID-19 Vaccine accessibility assessment form

  1. A clinic nurse or OPH representatives will call the client and/or their contact person to introduce themselves The clinic nurse will explain the vaccination process step-by-step - from the time they enter the clinic to when they leave 

  2. The nurse can offer a private room or isolated space for the vaccination. If necessary, we can also arrange for a place for the client to lie down during the vaccination. Also, an accompanying family member/friend and/or things like stuffed animals are allowed throughout the appointment. 
  3. Lastly, the nurse will ask the client/their contact if there are specific steps we might take which could help with the client’s anxiety
  4. Accommodation requests can be made by completing the COVID-19 Vaccine accessibility assessment form

Some resources that might be helpful include: 

Is it possible to experience post-COVID-19 (also known as long COVID) health conditions? 

You never know how COVID-19 will affect your health after the acute illness has passed. Most people with COVID-19 get better in a few weeks. Some take longer to recover or have problems during recovery. 

Anyone can experience post-COVID-19 health conditions (also referred to as long COVID, long-haul COVID, post-acute COVID-19, long-term effects of COVID, or chronic COVID). This includes people who did not have symptoms while they had COVID-19. Every person is different. 

Preventing post-COVID conditions / ‘long-COVID’:  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the best way to prevent post-COVID conditions is to protect yourself and others from being infected. For those who are eligible, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 can help prevent infection and protect against severe illness. The CDC also states that research shows those who are vaccinated and become infected with COVID-19 are less likely to report post-COVID conditions compared to those who are not vaccinated.

Symptoms of post-COVID-19 health conditions can be new or ongoing and last weeks or months following a COVID-19 infection. Some of these symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
  • Cough
  • Chest or stomach pain
  • Headache 

Post-COVID-19 health conditions appear to be less common in children and adolescents. Symptoms in children and adolescents are similar to those experienced by adults. 

The causes and treatments for each person who has longer-term health problems will be different. The long-term effects of COVID-19 infection are still being studied. Have a discussion with your health care provider about your personal situation if you are having problems during your recovery. 

For more information on post-COVID-19 health conditions, please visit:

How can I reduce the risks of COVID-19 transmission in indoor spaces?

Exhaled breath, whether from breathing, speaking, singing, shouting, etc., contains a variety of sizes of particles - respiratory droplets or aerosols - some of which are big enough that they fall quickly to the ground. Some of which are small enough that they can stay in the air for various lengths of time.

COVID-19 is primarily transmitted through direct contact into the mouth, nose, or eyes with the exhaled respiratory droplets or aerosols which carry the virus from an infected person. Ventilation indoors with fresh air provides an important additional layer of protection. Ventilation with fresh air should be improved whenever possible, e.g., bringing in more fresh air through a properly maintained ventilation system or by opening windows and doors. Reducing the risk of transmission while indoors by wearing a mask or face covering and ensuring a distance of two metres (six feet) from those outside your household, continue to be important basics.

Poor ventilation in indoor spaces is linked to increased transmission of respiratory infections, particularly if the space is small. Transmission of COVID-19 has been linked with enclosed spaces, including from people who are infected but are not showing any symptoms of illness.

Even when keeping a distance of two or more metres, people should wear a mask if spending time in an enclosed airspace with people not from their household. The longer you are exposed to someone else in an enclosed space, the higher your chances are of breathing in that person’s exhaled respiratory droplets. The safest approach is to wear a mask at all times when you are in the same room with someone not from your household.

 How do heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems affect the transmission of COVID-19?

A well-maintained HVAC system may help reduce transmission of COVID-19 by exchanging indoor air, into which people have exhaled, with fresh outdoor air and by filtering recirculated air.     

Because of mechanical and structural complexity and cost, improved ventilation may need to be a longer-term goal, though adjustments to maximize air exchanges and filtration efficiency within the specifications of the existing HVAC system should be made as soon as possible.     

If possible, consult an HVAC professional to determine:    

  • If your HVAC system is operating properly    

  • If it can be adjusted to increase air exchange    

  • If it is using the most effective type of filters compatible with its system.    

  • If it is suitable for the size of your space and its intended use    

There are also quicker added interventions, such as portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration units but purchase and operating costs must be considered. Note, however, that within a single room, the air blown around by air conditioners or fans may increase the distance over which a virus can be transmitted. To help prevent blowing air from areas in which there may be virus into other areas and to reduce the concentration of virus particles in these areas:    

  • Minimize the use of air conditioners and fans blowing within the room (e.g., by using the lowest setting)  

  • Direct airflow away from surfaces and people (e.g., use a fan by aiming it to exhaust air out a window)  

  • Increase natural ventilation by opening windows if weather permits    

Please note that air conditioners and fans also require regular maintenance, such as:    

  • Surface cleaning, including the blades    

  • Removal of any moisture or water that has collected in portable air conditioners    

  • Filter changes    

  • Other maintenance activities found in manufacturers’ instructions    

Please note: Ventilation must never be considered the main or only means of risk reduction: masking, distancing, barriers, and hand hygiene have more immediate and reliable results.  

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Allergies, side effects and precautions

Can people with severe allergies to a component of the COVID-19 vaccine receive the vaccine?

As per the Ministry of Health COVID-19 Vaccine Guidance, people with known allergies to components of the COVID-19 vaccine may speak with a physician or nurse practitioner to determine whether and how they should receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The physician or nurse practitioner can help create a vaccination care plan to ensure you receive the vaccine safely.

If you have a known severe allergic reaction to a component in one of either the Moderna Spikevax or Comirnaty (Pfizer-BioNtech) vaccines and can’t interchange your subsequent dose, you will be able to receive the appropriate vaccine at one of our clinics.

Visit the Health Canada web page for a list of ingredients for the COVID-19 vaccines.

What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines?

American Sign Language - What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines?

The most frequent side effects are injection site pain, fatigue and headache. Some people who got the vaccine in trials also reported muscle pain, chills, joint pain and fever. These symptoms were usually mild or moderate and went away within a few days. These are all expected reactions to vaccines because of the immune response. They are very similar to those reported following the seasonal influenza vaccination.

You can find more information on the side effects for each vaccine on the Health Canada website.

If a person develops an adverse reaction, what should be done?

If someone experiences an adverse event following immunization, they should report it to a healthcare professional (e.g., family doctor).

An adverse event following immunization (AEFI) is an unwanted or unexpected health effect that happens after someone receives a vaccine, which may or may not be caused by the vaccine.

Public health surveillance of AEFIs is important for timely detection of rare vaccine safety issues. For more information visit the OPH page on AEFI reporting.

Expected side effects for each vaccine product are listed on the vaccine product monograph; common side effects could be found under ‘Side effects and risks’.

Healthcare professionals should complete the Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI) Form and send it to the local public health unit.

New Online Reporting Option for AEFIs

We are pleased to announce an online portal for submitting AEFI reporting securely in PDF format:

This provides another option, in addition to reporting by fax to: 613-580-9660.

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I recently got another vaccine or if I am due for another vaccine?

NACI recommends that COVID-19 vaccines may be given at the same time as, or before or after other vaccines for anyone 6 months of age or older. This includes live, non-live, adjuvanted, and non-adjuvanted vaccines. There are no specific safety concerns when routine vaccines are given at the same time or within days of each other. Please note that there could be stronger, temporary side effects when a COVID-19 vaccine and another vaccine are given at the same time or within days of each other. 

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