Frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccination

On this page

How to prepare for vaccination

For more information on vaccines, please visit the COVID-19 vaccine webpage.

Visit our COVID-19 Vaccination Dashboard for up-to-date information on COVID-19 vaccinations in Ottawa.

Clinics, accessibility and transportation

When will the community clinics open?

Community clinics are opening incrementally, dependant on vaccine supply. 

Timelines for opening all community clinics will depend on vaccine supply and the remaining community clinics will be opened as supply increases. Once fully operational, these community clinics will operate from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., seven days a week and have the capacity to administer a total of nearly 11,000 immunizations per day. 

Are the vaccine clinic sites accessible?
Yes they are. The City of Ottawa's accessible design standards were used. These standards include considerations of accessibility under the building code. Site visits were done to make sure that:
  • The doors had operators
  • Washrooms were accessible
  • Ramps were installed where needed 

Considerations of wide corridors and turning radius will be maintained during the clinics. Additional disability related supports can be provided when identified at the time of booking appointments.

Due to limited availability, we are asking for those who can to bring their own wheelchairs.

Staff will be on hand at the clinics to assist residents who arrive for their vaccinations. Clients who need assistance will be allowed one support person to accompany them into the vaccination clinic.

Is parking available at the community clinics?

Parking options are available at each of the community clinic locations, and parking at City Hall is complimentary for those with an appointment. Please select one of the following community clinics to view a map with information on parking, route access, and nearby transit routes:

Can I receive a vaccination at home if I am unable to leave my house?

At this time, we are not able to come to a person’s home to administer the vaccine. Transportation support to a site is available if needed. Other supports can also be arranged when you make your appointment.

Can I bring a support person with me to my appointment?

Yes, if you need help from a support person, they can attend the appointment with you. Staff will be on hand at the clinics to assist residents who arrive for their vaccinations. To reduce overcrowding at the clinics, we ask that you only bring one support person who is essential to you.

Are communication supports available on site?

Yes. Clinic staff can access interpretation services by telephone if needed. However, clients who wish to bring a support person with them to assist with interpretation at the clinic are welcome to do so. There is a limit of one support person per client.  

Transportation to clinics and Para Transpo
  • Residents who are eligible for vaccination are encouraged to make a transportation plan in advance of their appointment. This could include asking a family member or caregiver to provide you with a ride to your designated vaccination clinic.
  • If you are a Para Transpo user, you can book your ride to the vaccination clinic through the COVID-19 Vaccination Trip Reservation telephone line at 613-842-3600 between the hours of 10 AM and 8 PM.
  • If a transportation option is not available to you, you can request a ride to and from the clinic through Ottawa Community Transportation after you have booked your appointment. Ottawa Community Transportation will contact you directly.
  • If you or someone you know require transportation but do not have online access, please contact 211 and they will help complete the transportation request form on your behalf. Please have your vaccine booking confirmation number available when calling.
  • COVID-19 protocols are in place to ensure the safety of the rider and the driver, and wearing a mask is mandatory.

How can I support a friend, family member or neighbour with booking their vaccine appointment?

If you are helping someone book their vaccine appointment, there are a few things you will need to do and have available to you. Ideally, and if it can be done safely, the person is with you to clarify information, or answer questions.  

  • Obtain your family member, friend, or neighbours consent to help them book their vaccine appointment as you will be providing that person’s personal health information for a health screening  

  • Visit ottawapublichealth.ca/COVID19Vaccine to check the current criteria for eligibility 

  • Fill out the eligibility tool to see if they are eligible for a vaccine appointment in the current phase   

  • If they are eligible, follow the instructions listed and/or call the phone number listed to book an appointment 

  • If booking by phone, tell the booking agent that you are helping another person to book an appointment and have their consent to make an appointment on their behalf  

  • Make note of the date, time and location of the appointment. Give this information to the person you are helping. 

To support someone with booking their vaccine appointment, you will need their:  

  • Date of birth 

  • Address and postal code  

  • Contact information (telephone, email) 

  • Background health information. The booking agent will do a health screening. The person will need to speak to their health care provider to discuss the vaccine before booking if any of the criteria below apply

  • You will be asked if the person: 

  • Has had an allergic reaction to a previous vaccine 

  • Has an autoimmune disease or is immunocompromised 

For residents whose first language is not English or French, a translation service is available. Please tell the booking agent which language you need support in.   

Note: A support person can go with another person to a vaccine appointment, if needed.  

How can I support someone who I am a Power of Attorney (POA) or Proxy for, when I cannot attend a vaccine clinic with them, but they require support to complete their consent? 

If you are a POA, or a proxy for someone who needs support with consent, it is preferred that you attend the clinic with the person being vaccinated.

If you are unable to go with the person to their vaccine appointment, a completed electronic copy of the consent can be brought to the clinic. The consent should be completed, including the complete name of the POA, and their phone number. While an electronic copy is preferred, if this is also not possible, a paper copy can be brought to the clinic.

OPH vaccine clinics are paperless, paper consents are not kept with the clinic.

To find the consent form, please visit the Ministry of Health- COVID-19 Vaccine Consent Form Version 3.0- March 11 2021 COVID-19 Vaccine Consent Form (gov.on.ca).

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Eligibility

Who is determining who can get a COVID-19 vaccine and when?

The Government of Canada is responsible for approval and procurement of COVID-19 vaccine supply. The Government of Ontario is responsible for the distribution of these vaccines across the province. The Ethical Framework for COVID-19 vaccine distribution guides how the provincial government prioritizes and distributes vaccines across Ontario.

The City’s Emergency Operations Centre and Ottawa Public Health are doing everything possible to ensure Ottawa residents who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine will be able to access it as quickly and efficiently as possible, dependent on vaccine supply and in alignment with the provincial framework. The total amount of vaccines that will be distributed to the City of Ottawa and precise delivery dates are not yet known. These decisions are made by the Province and subject to vaccine procurement from the federal government.  

For the latest information, please refer to the following web page:

Government of Ontario: Getting a COVID-19 vaccine in Ontario.

Can a staff and caregiver in long-term care homes or staff or caregiver in designated retirement homes who lives in Quebec, but is working in Long-Term Care in Ontario (Ottawa) receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes. We want to be able to protect the health of the residents in the LTC homes and so those employees would be eligible to receive the vaccine here in Ottawa.
If I am the essential care giver of a child who has special needs or health issues that puts them at risk, where do I fit in? When can I expect to be vaccinated? 
The Province of Ontario has predefined teachers and other education staff as essential workers under Phase 2 of the provincial vaccination roll-out plan. The Province is responsible for further defining who else is captured and included under Phase 2. At this time, specific information about the prioritization for caregivers of children with disabilities is not available, but we expect the province to have further direction on Phase 2 implementation in the coming weeks.

Will I be eligible for vaccination during Phase 2 of Ontario’s vaccination plan if I have a chronic health condition?

People with specific health conditions will be offered a vaccine based on an assessment of level of risk of the medical condition. The province defines these levels of risk as: 
  • Highest risk
  • High risk
  • At risk

Those with the ‘highest-risk’ will be vaccinated first, followed by ‘high-risk’ and ‘at-risk’ people. People with certain health conditions are at increased risk of serious illness and death regardless of age. Please visit the following link  Populations Eligible for Phase Two COVID-19 Vaccination for:

  • A list of specific health conditions; and
  • Who is eligible for vaccination in Phase 2

Do adults with chronic conditions receiving care in the home through Direct Funding fall under Phase 1 of the vaccination plan?

At this time, the Province of Ontario does not include people who receive Direct Funding for homecare as eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the Phase 1 vaccination rollout. There may be other factors that would make individuals in this group eligible, including age and neighbourhood. The full list of health conditions that would make someone eligible in phase 2 can be found in the provincial vaccination plan. The caregivers of people with highest-risk health condition are also eligible in Phase 2. 

Under what phase are people with disabilities who live in congregate care/group home settings eligible for the vaccine?

People who live and work in high-risk group and other congregate care settings (e.g., community living) are eligible for the vaccination under Phase 2. 

Can I get vaccinated at the same time as a family member and/or partner?

Only individuals who are currently eligible for the vaccine may be vaccinated. Individual appointments must be made for each person who is eligible for a vaccine. Please complete our COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Screening Tool to see if you can currently receive the COVID-19 vaccine and book an appointment. 

How do I know if I live in an eligible neighbourhood?

Vaccine appointments are available in select neighbourhoods. If you fit this criteria, please complete the COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Screening Tool to see if you live in an eligible neighbourhood. You can also view a map of the eligible neighbourhoods on the Ottawa Public Health (OPH) webpage. 

I believe I live in one of the eligible neighbourhoods. Why does it say I’m not eligible when I type in my postal code?

There are different ways to identify a high-risk neighbourhood, such as a name, or street borders or physical landmarks. The City of Ottawa and OPH have determined that the most efficient and equitable way to determine its high-risk neighbourhoods is by postal code. Only certain residents of certain neighbourhoods are eligible for the vaccine at this time. To find out if your address falls within a neighbourhood boundary, please see the map of eligible neighbourhoods.

My neighbourhood is not yet eligible. When will I be able to get the vaccine?

You will get your turn. Pending vaccine availability, vaccinations will be rolled out in the coming weeks to more neighbourhoods where residents are at the greatest risk of COVID-19. Community clinics are also expected to open later in March for all other Ottawa residents who were born in or before 1951, or who are recipients of chronic home care, pending vaccine delivery.

Residents of all ages who are not yet eligible for the vaccine are encouraged to follow announcements on the City of Ottawa and OPH websites and social media channels, and from your local news media to learn when you can receive the vaccine. Everyone in Ottawa who wants a vaccine will be able to get it.

How was the decision made to vaccinate in these neighbourhoods?

Rates of COVID-19 are on average five times higher than in the rest of Ottawa in neighbourhoods that have been identified for pop-up clinics. In some cases, they are 16 times higher. Risks for hospitalization and death are also higher. If we limit hospitalizations in these communities, it will not only benefit the residents who live there, it will help all residents by making sure our health systems aren’t overwhelmed.  

Is there an eligibility list I need to be on to get the vaccine?

At this time, there is no eligibility list for the general population. Eligibility is based on the Government of Ontario’s three-phase distribution plan. The vaccine will be distributed to populations of highest priority and based on vaccine supply.

We know many people are anxious to be immunized for COVID-19, including those who are considered higher-risk or have other underlying health conditions. Please continue to follow all public health guidelines to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

As more information becomes available it will be posted to the Province’s COVID-19 vaccines for Ontario page. You can also sign up for the City of Ottawa’s COVID-19 vaccination update e-subscription for regular news and updates on the vaccine roll-out.

How will I be notified when it's my turn to get the vaccine?

Residents of all ages who are not yet eligible for the vaccine are encouraged to follow announcements on the City of Ottawa and Ottawa Public Health websites and social media channels, and from your local news media to learn when they can receive their vaccine. You can also sign up for the City of Ottawa’s COVID-19 vaccination update e-subscription for regular news and updates on the vaccine roll-out.

I am an essential worker. When can I be vaccinated against COVID-19?

Frontline essential workers, including teachers and other education staff and food processing workers are expected to be offered vaccines in Phase 2 from April to July 2021. Specific timing will depend on the availability of vaccines, and the Province of Ontario is responsible for further defining the parameters of who is considered a frontline essential worker in the coming weeks. The Provincial task force will use the ethical framework and the best available data to identify other priority populations within this phase, based on available vaccine supply. 

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Booking

I have confirmed that I meet the eligibility criteria for vaccination. How do I book an appointment?  

Eligible residents can book an appointment through the Province of Ontario’s online booking system for a vaccine at a community clinic.

If you are eligible to book an appointment via Ottawa Public Health, please call 613-691-5505 to book an appointment at a pop-up clinic location. The date, time, and location will be confirmed when you make your appointment. Service providers can take your call between 7:30 am and 6 pm, Monday to Friday, and 8:30 am to 4 pm Saturday and Sunday. Service is available in multiple languages.

Walk-ins will not be accepted, so please call in advance to book your appointment if you have confirmed that you are eligible.

How do I book an appointment if I do not have an Ontario health card or have a red and white card?

If you have confirmed that you are eligible to receive a vaccine via the screening tool but have a red and white Ontario health card, please call the Province of Ontario’s Provincial Vaccine Booking Line at 1-833-943-3900 (TTY 1-866-797-0007) to book your appointment. This line is available 8 am to 8 pm, seven days a week. Information is available in more than 300 languages.

If you do not have a valid health card but are eligible for a vaccine, please call Ottawa Public Health at 613-691-5505 to book an appointment.

I have tried calling the Ottawa Public Health COVID-19 vaccine registration line but could not get through. What should I do?

We know that there is a high demand for vaccines, so a high volume of calls is expected. When calling into the booking line, callers will be put into a queue where there is the potential for long wait times. You may also select an option for a call back. Please help us keep phone lines open for those who are eligible to receive a vaccine. Only eligible residents should call the COVID-19 vaccine booking phone line to make an appointment. Appointments at community clinics should be completed via the Province. Please do not call 3-1-1 or the general Ottawa Public Health phone line, as appointments at community clinics cannot be booked on these lines.

How do I cancel or reschedule my vaccine appointment?
 If you scheduled an appointment through the provincial online vaccine booking system, you can reschedule or cancel:
  • Online – go to the confirmation email you got when you booked and follow the instructions
  • By calling the Provincial Vaccine Booking Line at 1-833-943-3900 (TTY 1-866-797-0007)

You will need the following:

  • Your health card (information on front and back)
  • Your postal code

If you booked your appointment with Ottawa Public Health directly, please call 613-691-5505 to reschedule.

If you booked through The Ottawa Hospital, please email vaccines@toh.ca with any cancellations or appointment change requests.

What do I do if when I enter my postal code into the provincial booking system to book an appointment at a community clinic, I receive an error?
If you do not have one or live in a recently built neighbourhood, the Province of Ontario has directed clients to use the postal code of a shelter, library, or other community space in your area. 
I have tried to book an appointment using the provincial booking system but was not able to. What should I do?
The City of Ottawa's Emergency Operations Centre is actively identifying any technical issues that may arise in the system for the Province to resolve. 

If there are no available local vaccination appointments for a community clinic on the provincial booking portal, please check back at a later date. As more vaccine supply is distributed locally by the Province of Ontario, based on procurement by the Government of Canada, more appointment spots will be added.

For help with your booking through the provincial online vaccine booking system, please call the Provincial Vaccine Booking Line (available in more than 300 languages) at 1-833-943-3900 (TTY 1-866-797-0007).

  • Information is available in more than 300 languages
  • This line is available 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., 7 days a week
  • You may have to wait for an agent when call volumes are high
If you are an eligible resident requesting to book an appointment at a pop-up clinic, please call Ottawa Public Health at 613-691-5505.

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Vaccine effectiveness

What vaccines are approved in Canada?

There are four (4) COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in Canada

All four vaccines are safe and effective against symptomatic COVID-19 infection and protect you from severe COVID-19 illness and hospitalization. COVID-19 vaccines work best when immunizing those at highest risk of severe illness first, which helps protect each other and helps prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed from COVID-19 cases.

No vaccine is perfect, and there is a chance that you may still get COVID-19 after being vaccinated. Vaccines take time to work, and vaccine effectiveness against novel variants is still being investigated. It is very important to continue following public health measures such as physical distancing, wearing a mask, minimizing contact with people outside of your household, washing your hands often, and staying home if you are sick. Healthcare and other staff must still wear personal protective equipment (PPE) even after they have been vaccinated.

What does % efficacy or % effectiveness mean in a vaccine?

Vaccine efficacy is a representation of how well a vaccine will work at preventing illness caused by a particular virus.   In clinical trials, vaccine efficacy (VE) or effectiveness is interpreted as the proportionate reduction in disease among the vaccinated group. A VE of 50% indicates a 50% reduction in disease occurrence among the vaccinated group, or a 50% reduction from the number of cases you would expect if they have not been vaccinated. In a group of 100 vaccinated people, on average, only 50 people instead of all 100 people would get ill if all 100 were exposed to the virus.

It is important to note that all of the COVID-19 vaccines currently approved are effective at reducing the risk of serious illness, hospitalization, and death, and will help control the spread of COVID-19 in the community. A 50% reduction in disease occurrence could still play an important role in ending an epidemic. 

How do viral vector-based vaccine’s work?

The AstraZeneca and Janssen COVID-19 vaccines are non-replicating viral vector-based vaccines. 

Viral vector-based vaccines use a virus, which has been modified to be harmless, as a delivery system to build your immunity. When injected into the body, these COVID-19 vaccines produce a surface protein from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, specifically the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. The spike protein does not make you sick -- it helps your body develop a strong immune response without exposing you to the virus that causes COVID-19. Many people around the world have safely received viral vector vaccines for COVID-19.

How do mRNA vaccines work?

American Sign Language - How do mRNA vaccines work?

These types of COVID-19 vaccines use messenger RNA (mRNA). mRNA provide instructions to the cells in our bodies to make a viral protein from the coronavirus called a “spike protein”. The mRNA provides the instructions that allows the cell to make the spike protein, and then the immune system is activated to recognize the spike protein as being different from the body’s own proteins which initiates an immune response. The mRNA is then degraded by normal cellular mechanisms and the spike proteins are destroyed by the immune system.  mRNA vaccines are just one of the different types of vaccines currently used to prevent COVID-19 disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. COVID-19 vaccination along with public health measures will offer the best protection from COVID-19.

How is the COVID-19 vaccine different from the influenza (flu) vaccine?

The COVID-19 and influenza vaccines are separate products. The COVID-19 vaccine will not protect you against influenza. The seasonal influenza vaccine changes every flu season. When you receive your annual flu vaccine, you are protected only from the specific influenza strains that are circulating for that given season that are covered by the vaccine.

The flu vaccine won’t protect you against COVID-19.

What happens if I miss my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, or I receive my second dose after the recommended time interval between doses?

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that the doses be given at the recommended intervals. 

Vaccine supply is currently limited. For this reason, NACI recommends that regions increase the number of people getting the first dose of vaccine. This can be done by increasing the interval between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine, up to four months.

So far only a few months of data have been collected on vaccine effectiveness after the first dose. But, the first two months of real-world effectiveness are showing high levels of protection.

Short term protection is consistent with principles of immunity and vaccine science. This means, it is not expected to see a rapid decline of a highly effective vaccine in adults over a short period of time. Extending the dose interval to four months gives NACI the opportunity to protect the entire adult population in a short period of time. NACI will continue to look at the information on effectiveness of extended dose intervals and will adjust their recommendations as needed.

To make sure that the vaccine provides the best protection for most people, the second dose of the vaccine may be delayed for some. For individual protection with mRNA vaccines, the recommended dosage interval remains 42 days. 

As a general vaccination principle, a series does not need to be restarted if it was interrupted (which would lead to a longer time between doses).  For most other vaccines, delays between doses do not reduce how well the vaccine will work. In general, you should not be concerned if you experience a delay between doses. 

It will take time for your body to build protection after you have received the vaccine. It will be months before enough people are vaccinated and the spread of COVID-19 is no longer a concern. Public health measures such as mask wearing, physical distancing and hand washing are still required after being vaccinated.

Do both doses in the vaccine series need to be the same COVID-19 vaccine? 

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that the vaccine series be completed with the same type of COVID-19 vaccine product. There is not enough information on whether a second dose with a different type vaccine product will offer the same protection.  

However, the same type of COVID-19 vaccine may be given if:  

  • A second dose of the same COVID-19 vaccine is not available or   
  • It is unknown which vaccine was taken first   

For example, both doses should be an mRNA-type of vaccine. The Pfizer BioNtech and Moderna vaccines are both types of mRNA vaccines. 

 

Reasons to get vaccinated

Why should I get vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccination is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread and reduce the impact of infectious diseases, whether it is the seasonal flu (influenza) or childhood infections such as chickenpox (varicella). Safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19 are now available to protect us against COVID-19. While many people infected with COVID-19 experience only mild illness, others may get a severe illness or even die. There is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you, even if you are not at increased risk of severe complications. COVID-19 vaccination helps protect you by creating an antibody response without having to experience the illness of COVID-19.

Why I am choosing the vaccine

Why I am choosing the vaccine videos are available in French, Arabic, Mandarin, and Somali. 

What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a viral infection that primarily affects the lungs. Some people may have a mild illness. Others may get very sick, including older adults or those with a pre-existing health condition. Very rarely, some children can get a serious inflammatory condition. The long-term effects of COVID-19 are not fully known. Some people are at greater risk of getting COVID-19 because of their work or living conditions. 
Will people have the choice of which COVID-19 vaccine they receive?

All four vaccines approved for use in Canada are safe and effective. They all reduce the risk of serious illness, hospitalization, and death, and will help with the control of COVID-19 in the community.

The vaccine that you will be offered will depend on:

  • Supply
  • Availability at the time
  • Storage requirements
  • Your age

You may decline the vaccine product that you are offered; you will not be able to select between vaccine products.

Persons with allergies to a vaccine, or a specific component of a vaccine must consult a physician to determine if vaccination is still possible, and if so, with what vaccine. 

What percentage of the population needs to get vaccinated to achieve “herd immunity”?

Herd immunity is reached when enough people have protection against a disease, which makes it unlikely that a virus or bacteria can spread and cause more infections. This protection can be either from a previous infection or vaccination. As a result,  the whole population within the community is protected. But those who are not protected because they have never had the disease, did not get vaccinated or the vaccine was not as effective for them can still get sick. This is why it is not a good idea to rely on herd immunity to protect yourself instead of getting vaccinated.

The percentage of people who need to have protection to reach herd immunity varies by disease. 

Some estimates for COVID-19 suggest it may be near 60 to 70%. However, herd immunity calculations may not be reliable in the context of COVID-19 because of many unknowns. The effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in preventing asymptomatic infection remains unknown right now. For this reason, herd immunity calculations will only give an estimated target for vaccination programs.

Until the effects of the COVID-19 vaccines have been fully studied, it is best to not assume that vaccinations will protect others. We must continue to protect ourselves and others by:

  • wearing a mask
  • practicing physical distancing
  • practicing hand hygiene
  • staying home and getting tested when sick

These measures will help to continue to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

For more information on COVID-19 vaccines, visit: OttawaPublicHealth.ca/COVID19Vaccine

Can people who have already tested positive for COVID-19 get a COVID-19 vaccine?  

Yes. Those who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 can and should still be vaccinated. You do not need COVID-19 testing prior to vaccination.  

Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, people can still get a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have been sick with COVID-19 before.  

At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity developed after having an infection, called natural immunity, is different from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long. We need more information on how well the vaccine works to be able to assess how long immunity from the vaccine will last.

How do I decide if vaccination is the right choice for me and my family?

Feeling worried or hesitant is completely normal when something is new. Vaccination is a personal choice, and one that most Canadians agree is an important part of maintaining good health and for disease prevention.

Why I am choosing the vaccine

Why I am choosing the vaccine videos are available in French, Arabic, Mandarin, and Somali. 

Will the current COVID-19 vaccines protect against new variants of COVID-19?

The evidence we have now suggests that current vaccines may be effective or partially effective against one or more variants. But more data is still needed. Vaccine makers are looking into how vaccines can be changed to keep them effective against new variants.

Non-variant SARS-CoV2 continues to cause severe illness. This is preventable through vaccination. 

Is it worth taking the vaccines when the COVID variants are becoming more of a concern? 
Yes. Non-variant SARS-CoV2 continues to be present in our community and causes severe illness. This is preventable through vaccination.

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Myths

Can the mRNA vaccine alter a person’s DNA?
No. mRNA is not able to alter or modify a person’s genetic makeup (DNA). The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA are kept. This means the mRNA does not affect or interact with our DNA in any way. Instead, COVID-19 vaccines that use mRNA work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop protection (immunity) to disease.
Can the COVID-19 vaccine cause a COVID-19 infection?

No. None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in Canada use the live virus that causes COVID-19. There are several different types of vaccines in development. The goal of each of the vaccines is to teach the immune system how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Sometimes this process can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are a sign of the immune response to vaccine.

It usually takes the body a few weeks to build immunity after receiving a vaccine. It is possible that someone could become infected with the COVID-19 virus before or just after getting the vaccine and get sick. This happens because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection in the body. Learn more about COVID-19.

How do I know if the vaccine is halal?

Many companies are making vaccines and the COVID-19 vaccines that are approved in Canada are from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen do not contain gelatin or pork products.

Vaccines that may become available later may include gelatin or pork products and as more information becomes available for these, consult with religious leaders about which specific vaccines are recommended. It is important to know there are approved vaccines in Canada that do not contain gelatin or pork products.

Is it true that the COVID-19 vaccines contain elements from a human fetus?

No. Many researchers use what are called ‘cell lines’ to develop vaccines. Cell lines are cultures of human or animal cells that can be grown in a lab for long periods of time. Most cells will eventually stop dividing and die, but some cell lines, called immortal cell lines, never stop dividing. These cell lines are especially useful for vaccine work. The viral-vector vaccines currently approved for use in Canada were produced using cell lines from human embryos that were electively aborted many years ago*. Scientists used these cell lines to grow the harmless virus needed to create an immune response against COVID-19. Cell lines from elective abortions are called fetal cell lines. Fetal cell lines have been used in medicine for years. Many of the vaccines that are widely used today were developed using fetal cell lines. These include some of the vaccines used to prevent rubella, hepatitis A and chickenpox. Although human cell cultures may have been used in the process of developing these vaccines, the vaccines do not contain any human cells or tissue.

Each of the COVID-19 vaccines being used in Canada have been approved and are safe and effective.

*The viral vector vaccines (AstraZeneca and Janssen) used fetal cell lines in the production of the final vaccine product. The mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna), used fetal cell lines in the research phase but not in the production:

  • AstraZeneca uses the HEK-293 cell line for the development, testing and production of the vaccine.
  • Janssen (J&J) uses PER.c6 cell line for the development, testing and production of the vaccine. This cell line was developed from retinal cells of an 18-week-old fetus aborted in 1985.
  • Pfizer was developed using genetic sequencing on computers without fetal cells. The HEK-293 abortion-related cell line was used in research related to the vaccine. It was not used for testing or the ongoing production.
  • Moderna does not need aborted fetal cell lines for production. But, aborted fetal cell line was used in both development and testing in the initial stage.

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Safety

Has the vaccine been shown to cause Bell’s palsy?
No. A direct connection with the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine and Bell’s palsy, a condition that causes temporary facial paralysis, has not been established. The Pfizer study examined 38,000 patients and found four cases of Bell’s palsy among those who received the vaccine, but this is in keeping with the normal observed incidence of Bell's palsy in the population. The COVID-19 vaccine, like all vaccines, continues to be monitored for adverse events. 
Is it true that the COVID-19 vaccine only stops someone from having COVID-19 symptoms, but they could still pass the virus to others without knowing (asymptomatic transmission)?  

Studies of COVID-19 vaccines have shown that they are very effective at preventing people from becoming sick with COVID-19.However, right now we do not have enough information to show us how likely it is that someone who has been given a COVID-19 vaccine can develop an asymptomatic(no symptoms) COVID-19 infection and pass it to others.  

While there is early evidence suggesting that the vaccine may also reduce COVID-19 transmission, NACI is recommending that everyone continue to practice public health measures (e.g. wearing a face mask and physical distancing) regardless of whether or not they received a COVID-19 vaccine. More information on the vaccines ability to reduce COVID-19 transmission is expected in the near future.  

This means the vaccines will protect those who receive it from getting sick, but it is possible that someone who has been vaccinated could still carry the virus pass the virus on to othersalthough it would likely be at a much lower rate.  

How was Health Canada able to approve the COVID-19 vaccine so quickly – did they lower their safety standard for vaccines?

The reason the COVID-19 vaccine was approved quickly is not because safety standards have changed, it’s because Health Canada shortened the administrative and organizational process of vaccine authorization. The safety requirements in clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccine were just as strict as the regular process for any other vaccine.

Is getting the COVID-19 vaccine voluntary?
Yes. COVID-19 vaccines will not be mandatory, but you are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated.
Can people who have already tested positive for COVID-19 get a COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes. Those who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 should still be vaccinated and people do not need COVID-19 testing prior to vaccination.
If children cannot get COVID-19 vaccines yet, how can we protect them from COVID-19?

All vaccines are reviewed by Health Canada and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI). They determine who the vaccines are safe and effective for.  Due to lack of evidence, children are not currently eligible for the COVID-19 vaccines.

Vaccines add an extra layer of protection. Most vaccines decrease the circulation and transmission of the diseases against which they provide immunity. However, we still need more real-life data about how the COVID-19 vaccines will impact transmission of COVID-19. For now, it is very important that we continue to follow public health measures to keep each other safe.

here are vaccine companies that are now studying the vaccine in younger age groups including 12 and 17 year old. In the future, there may be plans to study younger age groups. Health Canada and NACI will review new evidence on vaccine safety and effectiveness. They will use the emerging evidence to update their recommendations.

Is it safe to take the vaccines if someone does not know that they have COVID-19? For example, if they are asymptomatic?  

Yes, it is safe to take the vaccine as long as you are feeling well on the day you are to have your vaccine. You do not need a COVID test in order to get the vaccine. However, it is still important to screen yourself before being vaccinated. Public health measures are in place at clinics to keep you and others safe. Please wear a mask, distance yourself from others and stay home if you or anyone in your household is ill. 

Is it safe for seniors or other high risk groups to go to public vaccination clinics?

Yes. Measures are being taken at vaccine clinics to make sure that the public is safe. It is important that if you are going to get vaccinated, that you screen yourself for COVID-19 first. If you or anyone in your household is not well, or has symptoms of COVID-19, you must stay home.

Vaccine clinics are set up to be as safe as possible. The setup of each clinic will allow for physical distancing.  There will also be a limit on the number of people in a space at one time. Everyone is required to wear a mask while attending a clinic. Staff giving the vaccine will also be wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Please note that after getting your vaccine, you will need to stay and sit in the clinic for at least 15 minutes. If you need support during your clinic visit, you can bring a support person with you. 

When I start my COVID-19 vaccine series, do both doses need to be the same COVID-19 vaccine? 

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that the vaccine series be completed with the same COVID-19 vaccine product. There is not enough information on whether a second dose with a different vaccine product will offer the same protection.

However, if a second dose of the same COVID-19 vaccine is not available or it is unknown which vaccine was taken first, the same type of COVID-19 vaccine may be given. For example, both doses should be an mRNA vaccine. The Pfizer BioNtech and Moderna vaccines are both mRNA vaccines. 

Is it safe to be vaccinated with AstraZeneca? 
The risk of a serious outcome from being infected with COVID-19 is far greater than the risk of a serious side effect from the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Health Canada has reassured Canadians that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine continues to be safe and effective at protecting against COVID-19 and encourages people to get immunized with any of the COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada. There is a robust monitoring system in place for vaccines in Canada.
What are the signs and symptoms of (VIPIT)?
Vaccine-Induced Prothrombotic Immune Thrombocytopenia is rare. In the reported cases, the symptoms developed 4 to 20 days after getting the AstraZeneca Vaccine. If you develop any of the symptoms below following COVID-19 vaccination, seek immediate medical attention.

Symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Leg swelling
  • Persistent abdominal pain
  • Neurological symptoms including sudden onset of severe or persistent worsening headaches or blurred vision
  • Skin bruising (other than at the site of vaccination) or petechiae
It is also important to remember that there are temporary minor symptoms which are common after all vaccinations which include: headache, fever or pain at the injection site. 

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Public health measures

Once a person is vaccinated with the series of two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, can they stop following public health measures like wearing a mask, physical distancing and self-isolating when they become sick?

No. While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue practicing public health measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19. That means covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often and never touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands, staying at least 2 metres (6 feet) away from others and self-isolating when sick.  

Health care and other staff must still wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when working, even after they have been vaccinated. 

COVID-19 vaccination along with public health measures will offer the best protection from the spread of COVID-19. Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before deciding to change the recommendations everyone should take to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision. 

Now that I am vaccinated, am I able to have more contact with others, like my family and friends? (can I go see my grandchildren, gather with friends etc.?)

There are currently no changes to the recommendations that are in place.

COVID-19 vaccination along with public health measures will offer the best protection from the spread of COVID-19. Those who are vaccinated, and those who are not, must all continue to practice public health measures:

  • Physical distancing
  • Wearing a mask
  • Hand washing
  • Isolating when sick

The vaccines are effective at preventing symptomatic illness and death. However, experts need to learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines offer before changing public health recommendations.

When you’ve had one dose of a two-dose vaccine series, its effectiveness improves over a number of weeks. You cannot assume that if you have been vaccinated, you will be protected right away. It is important to understand that any time you have close contact with people from outside of your household, you are putting yourself and others at risk.

When more time has passed, and more of the community is vaccinated, experts will likely recommend lifting some of the restrictions. Many modelling studies have shown that we need to continue with full public health measures until very high levels of vaccination are achieved.   

Why would I want to get the COVID-19 vaccine if we are still required to follow public health measures even after vaccination?

The main reason to get vaccinated is to protect your own health. Vaccines add a valuable layer of protection against COVID-19 infection which can lead to severe illness and death. More people vaccinated means fewer COVID-19 infections in the community. This is important in helping to reduce the burden on the health care system. This would mean less people in the hospital, less patients in ICU and more capacity for hospitals to resume surgeries and treatments. 

At this timewe do not know if the vaccine prevents people from getting COVID-19, that they could then pass on to others. What we have learned from other vaccines is when more people are vaccinated and immunethis should eventually mean a higher likelihood of indirect protectioto those who are not immune to the disease.  

How long can we expect public health measures to be in place after COVID-19 vaccination in the community?

It is not known at this time. As we know public health measures such as mask wearing, physical distancing and hand washing help to limit the spread of COVID-19. Individual public health measures  will be strongly recommended for as long as they are needed. Measures in place at businesses and schools could be lifted over time depending on levels of community transmission.

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Allergies, side effects and medical conditions

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

No. People with a history of severe allergic reaction to a component of the COVID-19 vaccine should not receive the vaccine. 

Visit the Health Canada web page to learn who should not received the Pfizer-BioNTechModernaAstraZeneca and Janssen 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 here: Pfizer-BioNTechModernaAstraZeneca or Janssen.

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

No serious safety concerns have been causally linked to COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada.

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.

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

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’.

Are there any medications that would interact with the COVID-19 vaccines?

Most medications and medical conditions are not expected to interfere with the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Yet, you should talk to your health care provider if you:

  • have an autoimmune condition;
  • are receiving immunosuppressing therapies; and
  • have other specific medical conditions.

It is important to tell your immunization provider if you have received other vaccines recently. It is not recommended to receive another vaccine within 14 days of the COVID-19 vaccine. This is not because of a safety or effectiveness issue. It is because an adverse reaction to another vaccine could be confused with one occurring due to the COVID-19 vaccine. Before being vaccinated you will be asked some screening questions. You can find these questions  here: COVID-19 Vaccine Screening and Consent Form.

If I receive the COVID-19 vaccine and experience symptoms afterwards that are similar to COVID-19, do I need to get tested?

Individuals who receive a COVID-19 vaccination, may experience vaccine reactions that produce symptoms that are also symptoms of COVID-19, such as:  

  • Fever and/or chills
  • Feeling tired  
  • Headache or body aches and/or joint pain 
  • Nausea  

If symptoms resolve within 24 hours of being vaccinated for COVID-19 it is reasonable to manage these symptoms as a vaccination reaction. Individuals can end self-isolation 24 hours after symptoms have improved. However, individuals should seek testing for COVID-19 as soon as possible if:  

  • Symptom(s) develop more than 48 hours after vaccination 
  • Symptom(s) persist or worsen for more than 48 hours after the first symptom onset 
  • The symptomatic individual has had close contact with a case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days  

or 

  • Symptoms are judged by a health care provider to be severe and/or not in keeping with a COVID-19 vaccination reaction 

Ottawa Public Health continues to recommend that anyone with symptom(s) of COVID-19 consult with a health care provider if they have questions or concerns.   

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Precautions

Can I receive the COVID-19 Vaccine if I am pregnant, breast/chestfeeding or immunocompromised? 

National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that if a risk assessment with a health care provider deems that the benefits outweigh the potential risks, and if informed consent includes discussion about the absence of evidence on the use of COVID-19 vaccine then a complete series of COVID-19 vaccine may be offered to the following populations: 

  • Adolescents 12 to 15 years of age (Pfizer BioNTech Vaccine) 

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding/chestfeeding 

  • Immunosuppressed due to disease or treatment or suffering from autoimmune disorder 

What should I consider before receiving the vaccine? 

  • Wait to get vaccinated if you have a fever or are sick with COVID-19 symptoms. This will help avoid confusing symptoms from other illnesses with vaccine-related adverse events. It also helps to decrease COVID-19 transmission at an immunization clinic
  • Are you on long-term anticoagulation therapy? National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommendations support that most people can be safely immunized without stopping their anticoagulation (blood thinner) therapy
  • If you have a bleeding disorder, NACI recommends that you make sure it is well managed before immunization
Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I recently got my flu (influenza) shot, or another vaccine? 

National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) currently recommends that people wait for at least 14 days after being given another vaccine (e.g. the influenza vaccine) before receiving the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. The Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are both mRNA vaccines. NACI also recommends that people wait for 28 days after receiving an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine before getting another vaccine. In summary, the COVID-19 vaccine should be given 14 days after receiving any previous vaccine and additional vaccines should not be given for 28 days after the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Finally, NACI does not recommend that COVID-19 vaccines be given at the same time as other vaccines.  

Can I get vaccinated if I am immunocompromised and or have an autoimmune condition?

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that you speak to your health care provider about vaccination.  A complete series of COVID-19 vaccine may be offered if after a risk assessment with your health care provider:
  • It is decided that the benefits outweigh the potential risks: and
  • A discussion on informed consent has taken place. This should include talking about the absence of evidence on the use of COVID-19 vaccine in persons with immunocompromised or autoimmune conditions.

In general, non-replicating vaccines may be given to immunocompromised people. These include the AstaZeneca and Janssen vaccines. However, the range of immunocompromising conditions and therapies and autoimmune conditions, is diverse.

Can the medications I take interfere with the effectiveness of the vaccines? Can they cause other side effects after vaccination?

 Most medications and medical conditions are not expected to interfere with the effectiveness of the vaccines.

You should talk to your health care provider if you:

  • have an autoimmune condition;
  • are receiving immunosuppressing therapies; and
  • have other specific medical conditions.

Your health care provider may have recommendations about the timing of your COVID-19 vaccine in relation to:

  • other vaccines, or
  • treatment for autoimmune or immunocompromising conditions.

Before being vaccinated you will be asked some screening questions. You can find these questions here: COVID-19 Vaccine Screening and Consent Form.

Health care providers can find more information here:

The NACI recommendations are updated as new information becomes available. They have sections with information on:

Have the vaccines been tested on people with a variety of rare conditions?

People who are immunosuppressed may have been excluded from clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines. People with rare conditions may not be adequately represented in clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines.

In general, non-live vaccines can be given to individuals who are immunosuppressed.  No safety issues  of concern have been noted to date in the worldwide use of these vaccine products. The vaccines have been tested on thousands of diverse people in many countries before being approved. This is in order to have a good cross-section of society.

Vaccine manufacturing companies report information from clinical trials. This information includes medical conditions of the people who participated. You can view information from clinical COVID-19 vaccine trials. This is a database of privately and publicly funded clinical studies done around the world.

If you have a medical condition, please talk to your health care provider for things to consider. 

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Other Questions

How are we engaging the community and specific groups like Indigenous, seniors, racialized communities?
Ottawa Public Health has established a local Vaccine Sequence Strategy Task Force to advise the City’s Emergency Operations Centre on how to implement the sequence of vaccines given local context, including maximizing uptake among groups sequenced ahead of others. This Task Force includes representation from groups highly affected by COVID-19, such as newcomers, Indigenous, racialized people, older adults, and healthcare workers. The Vaccine Sequencing Task Force relies on the framework established by the Province of Ontario. 
What can I do now and how can I help?

In the coming months the vaccine will be available to the general public. In the meantime, it is essential that we all continue to do our part to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in the community: limit your close contacts to those within your household, practice physical distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands, stay home except for essential reasons and follow local and provincial guidance.

Until vaccines are widely available, it remains important to take steps to protect yourself, your loved ones and our community against COVID-19. Learn more about things you can do to reduce virus spread by following OPH on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. To keep up-to-date with the latest information, follow “COVID Decoded” with Dr. Trevor Arnason (link is external), on OPH’s YouTube channel.

Currently, Ottawa Public Health is not in need of volunteer support at the Community Vaccination Clinics. For any inquiries related to volunteering at the Community Clinics, please contact Covid19Volunteer@ottawa.ca

If you wish to support local community organizations during the current situation, please visit Volunteer Ottawa or the Champlain Community Support Network webpage. 

What mental health resources are available to those feeling anxious about vaccine availability?

The COVID-19 situation can be very stressful. It is OK to not be OK.

If you are in crisis, please contact the Mental Health Crisis Line (24 hours a day/7 days a week) at 613-722-6914 or if outside Ottawa toll-free at 1-866-996-0991.

Please visit Ottawa Public Health’s Mental Health and COVID-19 page for an extensive list of resources, including a printable version of a Mental Health and COVID-19 Resource List. 

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