Frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccination

Last revised on September 16, 2021

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How to prepare for vaccination

Take a tour of our COVID-19 vaccination clinic:

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.

Proof of vaccination regulation

Requiring proof of vaccination will help increase vaccination rates, protect individuals in higher-risk indoor settings, and keep businesses open. The proof of vaccination requirements take effect on September 22, 2021. Read the frequently asked questions regarding the proof of vaccination requirements. For the latest information on the proof of vaccination regulation in Ontario visit Ontario.ca/Covid-19 or read . 

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. The vaccine receipt will be a pdf document.  

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.  

Access the portal for your PDF electronic receipt to download. 

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.

 

Clinics, accessibility and transportation

Are the vaccine clinic sites accessible?

Yes, they are. The City of Ottawa's Accessibility Design Standards were used to select the sites. 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  

  • Accessible parking is available 

  • Seating is available for those who cannot stand for long periods 

  • There are designated Para Transpo drop off/pickup locations, with an indoor waiting area 

  • There is promotion of a scent free environment 

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 bring their own wheelchairs. Howeverstandard and bariatric wheelchairs are available at all clinic sites. 

Staff will be on hand at the clinics to assist residents who arrive for their vaccinations. Please let staff know what support you require when you arrive. Clients who need assistance will be allowed one support person to accompany them into the vaccination clinic. 

You will be seated while you wait for your vaccine. Bariatric chairs are available at all sites. 

Low sensory, quiet areas are available at all sites. Please let staff know if you require access to this space. 

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.

Take a tour of our COVID-19 vaccination clinic:

Is parking available at the community clinics?

Free parking options are available at each of the community clinic locations. Parking at City Hall and at the Horticulture Building is complimentary for those with an appointment but tickets must be validated.

Eva James Memorial Centre

65 Stonehaven Drive- Eva James Memorial Centre- Parking Map (pdf - 427KB)

Ruddy Family YMCA-YWCA 

265 Centrum Blvd - Ruddy Family YMCA-YWCA - Parking Map (pdf - 463KB) 

University of Ottawa – Minto Sports Complex

801 King Edward Avenue - Free Parking in Lot M

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

Yes. For the latest information, please refer to the following: Vaccination for people unable to leave their home because of a health condition or special needs

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 COVID-19 vaccination 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 using public transit or asking a friend, family member or caregiver to provide a ride to your designated vaccination clinic.

There are several support services available to assist in getting to and from your appointment:

  • OC Transpo continues to operate for essential trips during the stay at home order. Use the Travel Planner to plan your trip to any of the vaccine clinics located across the city.
  • If you are a Para Transpo user, you can book your ride through the COVID-19 Vaccination Trip Reservation telephone line at 613-842-3600 between the hours of 10 AM and 8 PM.
  • If you are a resident age 65 years or older or an adult with disabilities you can request a ride through Ottawa Community Transportation after you have booked your appointment. Ottawa Community Transportation will contact you directly to confirm your transportation.

If you or someone you know requires transportation but do not have online access, please contact 211. A representative will assist in completing the online form on your behalf. Please have your vaccine booking confirmation number available when calling.

  • If you are not eligible for support through Para Transpo or Ottawa Community Transportation, you can request a ride with a volunteer driver through the VaxAide online form, or by calling 613-869-8221.

COVID-19 protocols are in place to ensure the safety of the rider and the driver, and wearing a mask is mandatory.

Take a tour of our COVID-19 vaccination clinic:

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 

  • 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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Youth vaccine information

Can children and youth aged 12 to 17 years consent to receive a COVID-19 vaccine? 
Yes. The Health Care Consent Act, 1996 of Ontario, states that there is no minimum age for consent to health care. Children and youth aged 12 to 17 will be able to consent for themselves at their vaccine appointment. Children or youth will only be given a vaccine if they are able to make the decision and show that they understand what the vaccine is for and why they are getting it. People getting a vaccine should understand:

The individual giving the vaccination and the family must respect the young person’s decision about the vaccine. This means, it is possible your child could refuse the vaccine even if you wish them to have it. OPH recommends that parents and guardians discuss the COVID-19 vaccine with their eligible child(ren) before the vaccine appointment. The COVID-19 vaccine is voluntary.

If a child or youth is unable to consent for themselves, a substitute decision maker such as a parent or guardian, needs to provide consent.

A parent or guardian can attend a vaccine appointment with their child, however it is not required unless the child cannot consent for themselves or needs support. 

Is the COVID-19 vaccine recommended for children and youth aged 12 to 18 years?

Yes. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for youth based on its effectiveness and safety profile. 

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that a complete series with a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine should be offered to those 12 to 18 years who do not have any contraindications to the vaccine.  

According to NACI, clinical trials showed an excellent ability to protect adolescents 12 to 15 years of age against confirmed COVID-19 illness. After 2 doses, it is estimated that the vaccine will protect somewhere between 75% to 100% of those vaccinated in this age group. 

In clinical trials, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was well tolerated in adolescents 12 to 15 years of age. Compared to individuals 18 to 55 years of age, adolescents 12 to 15 years of age showed  side effects of headache, chills, and fever more often. Safety and effectiveness will continue to be monitored in clinical trial participants and in those receiving the vaccine through public health programs. NACI closely monitors evidence and updates its guidance as needed.  

It is very important that we continue to follow public health measures (e.g., physical distancing, limiting close contacts, wearing a mask, staying home when sick, and practising hand hygiene) to keep each other safe, whether you have received a vaccination or not. COVID-19 is still in the community. The vaccine does not protect everyone, particularly after only one dose.  

Please, continue to review the COVID-19 vaccine web page for details on booking your child or youth for a COVID-19 vaccine.  

What can I expect at my COVID-19 vaccine appointment?   
Please arrive at the clinic site, no more than 10 minutes before your appointment time. Once you come into the building you will be screened for COVID-19 and asked about your scheduled appointment. Make sure you bring:
  • Your booking confirmation code or email. Check your junk folder if you have trouble finding your email
  • Your Ontario health card, if you have one. If you do not: a letter from your school, medical provider or faith leader with the child’s name, date of birth and address.
  • Your immunization record, if available, to keep track of your COVID-19 vaccine
  • An allergy form, if you have a suspected allergy to a COVID-19 vaccine or any of its ingredients or have had a previous allergic reaction to a vaccine
  • A mask
  • A support person, if needed. This could be your parent, or guardian or someone else that provides support

Check out these resources before your COVID-19 vaccine appointment:

COVID-19 vaccines for youth

Ministry of Health: What you need to know about your COVID-19 vaccine appointment

Youth Kids Health First COVID-19 Vaccines for Ontario Youth  

Take a tour of our COVID-19 vaccination clinic:

What do I need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine? 

Other resources:

What other resources do I need to know about? 
The Link Ottawa- TikTok @thelinkottawa 

The Link Ottawa- Instragram @thelinkottawa 

Am I mandated under the Immunization of School Pupils Act to disclose my child’s COVID-19 vaccination status? If so, should I complete a Statement of Conscience or Religious Belief?

No, you are not currently mandated to disclose your child’s COVID-19 vaccination status or complete a Statement of Conscience or Religious Belief. The Statement of Conscience or Religious Belief applies to mandatory vaccines listed in the Immunization of School Pupils Act. Although the COVID-19 vaccine is highly recommended for those eligible, it is not currently mandated. Your child’s vaccination status may be requested by OPH as part of case and contact management if they have an exposure to determine their isolation requirements. Further guidance from OPH will be provided when contacted.

Other questions

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

Individual appointments must be made for each person who is eligible for a vaccine.

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.

Who is currently eligible for a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?

A third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is now available to the following vulnerable populations most at risk of serious illness:

  • Transplant recipients (including solid organ transplant and hematopoietic stem cell transplants)
  • Patients with hematological cancers (examples include lymphoma, myeloma, leukemia) on active treatment (chemotherapy, targeted therapies, immunotherapy)
  • Recipients of an anti-CD20 agent (examples include rituximab, ocrelizumab, ofatumumab)
  • Residents of high-risk congregate settings including long-term care homes, higher-risk licensed retirement homes and First Nations elder care lodges
  • Those undergoing active treatment for solid tumors;
  • Those who are in receipt of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T-cell;
  • Those with moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (e.g., DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome);
  • Stage 3 or advanced untreated HIV infection and those with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome; and
  • Those undergoing active treatment with the following categories of immunosuppressive therapies: anti-B cell therapies (monoclonal antibodies targeting CD19, CD20 and CD22), high-dose systemic corticosteroids, alkylating agents, antimetabolites, or tumor-necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors and other biologic agents that are significantly immunosuppressive.

Ottawa residents who meet these criteria can speak to their specialist or hospital program to ask for a letter to receive a third dose. The third dose of vaccine will be given at least two months after the second dose and will match the vaccine received as the second dose. Drop-in vaccinations are available for third doses at any community clinic, pop-up clinic, or neighbourhood vaccination hub in Ottawa during their hours of operation. Eligible residents must present a letter from their specialist or hospital program to receive a third dose. Residents of long-term care homes and highest risk retirement homes will also be offered a third dose of vaccination at an interval of at least five months after the second dose. Ottawa Public Health is working with long-term care homes and highest risk retirement homes directly to offer a third dose to residents in those settings. 

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

If I received my 1st COVID-19 vaccine in one city in Ontario, can I receive my second dose in a different city in Ontario?

Yes. If you received your first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in one part of Ontario, you will be able to get your second dose in another city or town if needed.  

When you are registering for your second dose in the Provincial booking system, use the postal code of the address you will be at during the time of your second dose.  

For example, if you received your first dose in Ottawa, but will be moving to Toronto for school in the fall when you are due for your second dose, use your new postal code when booking your dose.

I have received one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine outside of the Province of Ontario. What should I do?

If you have received one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine outside of the Province of Ontario, you must 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

I received my first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine series outside of Canada that is not approved for use in Canada. What should I do for my second dose

If you received your first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine series outside of Canada, that is not currently approved for use in Canada but want a complete vaccine series, you would have to start a new COVID-19 vaccine series. The new vaccine series would be from an approved COVID-19 vaccine in Canada. 

I received a full COVID-19 vaccines series outside of Canada that is not approved for use in Canada. Should I also receive a full COVID-19 vaccine series from a vaccine approved in Canada? 

If you received a full series of a COVID-19 vaccine outside of Canada, that is not approved in Canada but is approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO), the series is considered complete. No additional doses are needed.

See WHO’s list of COVID-19 vaccines listed for emergency use. Please note that this list is subject to change and it is best to consult this WHO website for an updated list.

If the vaccines series is not authorized for use in Canada and is not listed for emergency use by WHO, individuals should be offered a new series of a Health Canada authorized vaccine.

For more information see The Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Guidance for Individuals Vaccinated outside of Ontario/Canada.

I received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine that is approved in Canada, while in a different 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 must 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.  If your original proof of vaccination is in any language other than French or English, you must also upload a translated copy in either English or French.

Please continue to check our second dose information to find out how to book your second dose.  

I received two (2) doses of a vaccine approved in Canada, while in a different country. How do I ensure my vaccination is recorded in Ontario?  

If you have received one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine outside of the Province of Ontario, you must 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. If your original proof of vaccination is in any language other than French or English, you must also upload a translated copy in either English or French.

I received one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine through a Federal program while in the province of Ontario (for example military 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 military or embassy vaccination clinic) Complete the Ontario COVID-19 Vaccine Form for Federal Programs.

Once I submit my proof of vaccination from out of province or out of the country, will I get a vaccine receipt from OPH?

If you have further questions about how to view your vaccination status, please visit Ontario's provincial portal.

Please note, at this time the Provincial system does not provide receipts for COVID-19 vaccines provided out of province that do not contain a vaccine LOT number and/or a LOT number that is not recognized by COVAX. Please keep checking the provincial website, as this information may change over time. It is very important that you keep the proof of vaccine that you received from the other provinces or countries as your proof of vaccination.

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Travelling

What are the requirements regarding proof of vaccination to enter Canada?

For information on requirements for entering Canada, please visit the Government of Canada website.
What are the restrictions for travel to Ontario from other provinces?
For information on travel between Ontario and other provinces please visit the Government of Ontario website.
 How do I get a copy of my ‘vaccine receipt’ after I have been vaccinated?
Consult:  Booking and cancelling vaccine appointments

Can I travel after being vaccinated with a full series of a COVID-19 vaccine? What If I have a mixed dose schedule?

Many people are beginning to travel once again. It is important to assess your own personal risk factors for travel. This includes whether travel is essential. Only essential travel is recommended at this time.  It is also important to be aware of the COVID-19 situation occurring at your travel location. Please check with the country you are travelling to for vaccine, testing, isolation and other public health recommendations. 

If you have a mixed dose series, please know that you are well protected from a COVID-19 infection. Mixed dose schedules continue to be safe and effective. With regards to travel and other countries, it is important to check with the country you are travelling to for their requirements.

At this time, there are no vaccination requirements for visitors to the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommendations for unvaccinated travelers to follow upon entry to the US. There may be private events or activities that have certain vaccination requirements.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is continuing to engage with the United States and the CDC. The CDC’s current travel guidance is that those who are fully-vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson and Johnson) are exempt from the CDC’s recommended 7-10 day quarantine period when entering the US. Please review international guidelines before planning your trip.

For more on Canada’s travel measures see:

COVID-19: Travel, testing, quarantine and borders

COVID-19: Your safety and security outside Canada

COVID-19 vaccinated travellers entering Canada

Another helpful resource from The Government of Canada is the Travel Advice and Advisories.

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Booking and cancelling vaccine appointments

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.

Drop-in vaccinations are available for those eligible for first, second or third doses at any community clinicpop-up clinic, or neighbourhood vaccination hub in Ottawa during their hours of operation.

Various other locations offer the vaccine in Ottawa such as select pharmaciesclinics for Inuit populations and mobile vaccine clinics for workplacesVaccination for homebound people is also offered.

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 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 m. to 8 p.m., 7 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 or use the Province of Ontario's Manage Your Appointment web page.
  • 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 1-888-999-6488(TTY 1-866-797-0007).

Information is available in more than 300 languages.

This line is available 8 am to 8 pm, 7 days a week.

You may have to wait for an agent when call volumes are high.

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Mixing or interchanging vaccines

 If I have received a dose of the AstraZeneca Vaccine, what information is there on receiving a second dose? 

The Province announced that individuals can choose between a second dose of AstraZeneca or an mRNA vaccine, at an 8 to 12-week interval. Waiting to receive a dose at the 12-week interval may provide more protection, however some may choose to get their vaccine sooner at 8 weeks, in order to have the increased protection of a second vaccine sooner. As of June 14, 2021, Ontarians who received a first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine are eligible to book their second dose appointment at an interval of eight weeks or more.

Individuals who have received their first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine can choose to either receive a second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, or an mRNA (Moderna or Pfizer) vaccine for their second dose. Both second-dose options  are safe and provide strong protection against COVID-19 and will count as a completed series.  However,  on June 17, 2021, NACI released updated recommendations. Based on these recommendations:

An mRNA vaccine is now preferred as the second dose for individuals who received a first dose of the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine, based on emerging evidence of a potentially better immune response from this mixed vaccine schedule and to mitigate the potential risk of VITT associated with viral vector vaccines.

According to NACI, these new recommendations considered the recent epidemiology of COVID-19 in Canada, including:

  • The circulation of variants of concern;
  • Evidence on VITT, including risk and rates, associated with viral vector vaccines but not associated with the mRNA vaccines;
  • Canada's increasing supply of mRNA vaccines; and,
  • A comprehensive analysis of the implications on ethics, equity, feasibility, and acceptability.

NACI also states that people who received two doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine can rest assured that the vaccine provides good protection against infection and very good protection against severe disease and hospitalization.

Updates to guidance are ongoing. NACI reviews new scientific information on COVID-19 vaccines and revises guidance as needed. These updates are based on current scientific evidence and NACI expert opinion.

For more information on the new guidance, see Summary of National Advisory Committee on Immunization statement of June 17, 2021

Those choosing to get an mRNA vaccine, can book through the provincial booking system or a participating pharmacy.

Those choosing to get a second dose of AstraZeneca, can contact the pharmacy or primary care provider where they received their first dose.

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

On June 1, 2021 The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) updated their recommendations on the interchangeability of COVID-19 vaccines used in Canada. This means that you could receive one vaccine for your first dose and a different vaccine for your second dose to complete your series.

NACI recommends that:

  • If you received AstraZeneca/COVISHEILD as your first dose: Persons who received a first dose of the AstraZeneca/COVIDSHEILD vaccine may receive either AstraZeneca/COVISHEILD vaccine or an mRNA vaccine, such as Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, for their second dose, unless contraindicated.
  • If you received an mRNA vaccine as your first dose: Persons who received a first dose of an mRNA vaccine, such as Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna, should be offered the same mRNA vaccine for their second dose. If the same mRNA vaccine is not available or unknown, another mRNA vaccine can be considered interchangeable and should be offered to complete the vaccine series.

Getting the same vaccine for your first and second doses or getting one vaccine for your first dose and different vaccine for your second dose (also called a “mixed schedule”), are both considered valid options. Both schedules will count as a full series. Consider talking to a healthcare professional for help in understanding information related to each vaccine, to help with informed decision-making on vaccination.

Something to note is that there is a possibility of increased short-term side effects with a mixed COVID-19 vaccine schedule. Common short-term side effects include headache, fatigue, muscle aches, joint pain and generally feeling ill. These side effects are temporary and should resolve on their own within 48 hours after vaccination.

If symptoms last or develop more than 48 hours after vaccination, or if symptoms continue or worsen for more than 48 hours after the first symptom(s) appeared, and you may have been exposed to COVID-19 in the previous 14 days, you should self-isolate and go for COVID-19 testing. If at any time symptoms are severe, seek medical assessment right away.

For more information on mixed vaccine schedules, please review NACI’s Interchangeability of Authorized COVID-19 Vaccines.

For information on how to book your second dose, please see second dose information.

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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.

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 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 for either the first or second dose? 

All of the COVID-19 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.

While we are currently offering both Moderna and Pfizer at our community clinics, given fluctuations in our vaccine supply, we cannot guarantee a particular vaccine type for adults 18 years and older. Interchanging mRNA vaccines is safe and effective. The priority is to receive two doses of a vaccine to complete the series and be fully protected.

Both mRNA vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer, are made the same way. One vaccine is not better than the other. The best vaccine you can get is the first one that is available to you.

Getting the same vaccine for your first and second doses or getting one vaccine for your first dose and a different vaccine for your second dose (also called a “mixed schedule”), are both considered valid options. Both schedules will count as a full series. Consider talking to a healthcare professional if you have questions related to each vaccine and to help you make an informed decision on vaccination.

A second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is needed for the best protection against COVID-19. Being fully vaccinated provides much better protection than one dose.

Note: Anyone 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, which vaccine is appropriate.

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

Community 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 community immunity to protect yourself instead of getting vaccinated.

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

Some estimates for COVID-19 suggest it may be near 60 to 70%. However, community 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, community 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

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.

Can someone who has been vaccinated ‘shed the virus’ and put others at risk?

No. Viral shedding occurs after an individual gets infected by a viable (living) virus.

Vaccinated people do not shed any virus because the vaccines do not contain whole, living viruses. The vaccines also do not cause whole viruses to be created. The current vaccines approved for use in Canada do not contain live SARS-CoV-2 virus.

There are two classes of approved COVID-19 vaccines in Canada: mRNA vaccines, and viral vector-based vaccines.

mRNA vaccines

Both mRNA vaccines approved for use in Canada (Pfizer and Moderna) use synthetic mRNA. Synthetic mRNA is made to contain instructions for the spike protein found on the coronavirus. Once given to someone, the mRNA is delivered to the vaccinated person’s cells. The cell uses this to make copies of this spike protein, not whole viruses, which allow the body’s immune system to recognize and fight the coronavirus.

Viral vector-based vaccines

The COVID-19 viral vector-based vaccines (AstraZeneca and Janssen) use a harmless, weakened adenovirus as a vector (a shell). When the vaccine is made, DNA coding for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein is put into this adenoviral vector (or shell). The vector acts as a delivery system to bring the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein code to human cells. The vector (not SARS-CoV-2) will enter a cell in the body to deliver the instructions.  Then the instructions from inside the vector use the cell’s machinery to produce the spike protein and bring it to the surface of the cell. A vaccinated person’s immune system will recognize that the protein doesn’t belong there and train the body’s immune system to attack the coronavirus in the future. However, the spike protein doesn’t infect the recipient with SARS-CoV-2. It cannot cause the infection because it is not a whole virus.

Both mRNA COVID-19 and viral vector-based vaccines cannot cause infection with SARS-CoV-2, and therefore cannot cause viral shedding of SARS-CoV-2.

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Safety

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 or 

  • heart palpitations (fluttering or pounding of the heart 

Rare cases of myocarditis and pericarditis after vaccination with an mRNA vaccine have been reported in Canada and around the world.  Public Health Ontario, Health Canada and regulators around the world continue to investigate the possible relationship between COVID-19 vaccines and these events. 

Internationally these events have happened more often after the second dose. It usually happens within the week following vaccination (typically within 4-5 days). It mainly occurs in adolescents/young adults and more often in males than females. Cases have been mild and resolved without medical treatment.  

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. 

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) strongly recommends that a complete series with an mRNA vaccine be offered to all eligible individuals. This includes those 12 years of age and older. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved for use in people 12 years and over. The Moderna vaccine is approved for use in people 18 years of age and over. 

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. There was a  study done in Wuhan, China (Chen et al., 2020). It showed that one fifth of patients with confirmed COVID-19 had temporary changes in:

  • the length of their menstrual cycle; and
  • the amount of their bleeding.

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. 

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.  

I am concerned about reports of Bell’s Palsy following the COVID-19 vaccine. What information is there?

Very rare reports of Bell’s Palsy (typically temporary weakness or paralysis on one side of the face) have been reported in Canada and internationally after vaccination with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. 

Bell’s Palsy is an episode of facial muscle weakness or paralysis that comes on quickly. Symptoms are usually temporary and improve after a few weeks. It is thought to be the result of swelling and inflammation of the nerve that controls muscles on one side of your face.  

Get medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms after vaccination: 

  • uncoordinated movement of the muscles that control facial expressions, such as smiling, squinting, blinking or closing the eyelid 
  • loss of feeling in the face 
  • headache 
  • eyes watering
  • drooling 
  • loss of taste on the front two-thirds of the tongue 
  • very sensitive to sound in one ear 
  • unable to close an eye on one side of the face 

Report any adverse events after immunization to your healthcare professional. 

Health Canada reassures Canadians that COVID-19 vaccines continue to be safe and effective at protecting them against COVID-19.  The benefits of COVID-19 vaccines continue to outweigh any potential risks, as scientific evidence shows that they reduce deaths and hospitalizations due to COVID-19. 

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 (NACI, 2021). If you were self-isolating, you may be vaccinated as soon as your self-isolation period is finished. There is no information that suggests that antibodies from a recent SARS-CoV-2 infection would interfere with vaccine efficacy. 

Those who have tested positive for COVID-19 should wait until they have recovered, and public health has told them they no longer need to self-isolate, before getting vaccinated.  

You must complete your isolation before getting a vaccine so that you do not expose others at a vaccination clinic to the virus.  

If young children cannot get COVID-19 vaccines yet, how can we protect them from COVID-19?

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.

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. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is currently approved for individuals 12 years of age and older.

 Due to lack of evidence, children under the age of 12 years are not currently eligible for the COVID-19 vaccines. There are vaccine companies that are now studying the vaccine in 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. 

What are the signs and symptoms of Vaccine-Induced Immune Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia (VITT)?
Vaccine-Induced Immune Thrombotic 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. 

Can I still get a vaccine at a clinic if I have a history of fainting when getting a needle?

Yes. Please let your immunizer at the clinic know that you have a history of fainting during or after getting a vaccine. You will be accommodated by being given your vaccine lying down on a mat. There is an area of the clinic that Is screened off for privacy.

Fainting after a vaccine is not an adverse reaction and can happen to people for different reasons including stress or anxiety.

Please note: the FAQ above refers to fainting only, not a more a severe allergic reaction, such as anaphylaxis. Please be sure to tell your immunization provider if have a history or fainting or a history of severe allergic reactions following vaccination.

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 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. Some people develop post-COVID health conditions, or report having health problems that last weeks or months. People who did not have symptoms while they had COVID-19 could also develop post-COVID conditions. Every person is different. 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. 

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Public health measures

If I am vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine do I still have to isolate and seek testing if I have COVID-19 symptoms?

Yes. The COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada are effective. But, protection from COVID-19 takes time to develop after getting the vaccine. You cannot assume that you will be protected from COVID-19 right after getting the vaccine. There will be a small percentage of vaccinated people still vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus. These people may be less likely to develop severe disease if infected with COVID-19But they may still be able to spread COVID-19 to others. As COVID-19 continues to circulate in our community, vaccinated people must isolate and get tested if they develop COVID-19 symptoms. It is important to understand that when you have close contact with people outside of your household, you are putting yourself and others at risk. 

It is important that everyone, continue to practice public health measures for now. This is also true for vaccinated peopleIt includes daily screening and isolation and testing when you do have COVID-19 symptoms. 

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 two metres (six 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. 

If you have a known severe allergic reaction to a component in one of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines and can’t interchange your second dose, you will be able to receive the appropriate vaccine at our community and pop-up clinics.

 

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.

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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 post-vaccine side effects.  These side effects may produce symptoms that are also symptoms of COVID-19, such as:   

  • Headache  

  • Fatigue 

  • Muscle ache  

  • Joint pain 

These symptoms are common in the first 24-48 hours after vaccination and do not require individuals to self-isolate or go for testing. But the symptoms need to be mild (e.g., does not affect usual activities) and after immunization individuals should self-isolate and go for testing for COVID-19 as soon as possible if they have any of the following symptoms:   

  • Fever and/or chills    

  • Any respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, runny or congested nose, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, loss of taste or smell)

  • Pink eye

  • Digestive issues like nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain 

  • Extreme tiredness 

  • Falling down often 

 

OR 

  • Symptom(s) last or 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

  • Symptoms begin to affect the individual’s ability to do their usual activities   

  • 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

Is it safe to receive a COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant, and if so, which vaccine is recommended?

NACI preferentially recommends that a complete series with an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine be offered to those in the approved age group who are pregnant. The mRNA COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada are the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. An mRNA vaccine is preferred due to recently published data showing the safety of mRNA vaccines during pregnancy. Also, the treatment of Vaccine-Induced Immune Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia (VITT) during pregnancy can be complex. VITT may occur after getting a viral vector vaccine. If an mRNA vaccine is contraindicated, another approved COVID-19 vaccine should be offered.

NACI recommends that a complete series with a viral vector COVID-19 vaccine may be offered to those 30 years of age and older who are pregnant. It can be offered if:

a) The benefit-risk analysis shows that the benefit of earlier vaccination with the viral vector COVID-19 vaccine outweighs the risk of COVID-19 while waiting for an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine; and

b) The benefits, relative risk and consequences of VITT and COVID-19 are clearly explained to the person. This includes factoring in the estimated waiting time to get an mRNA vaccine as well as other personal public health measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19. Based on an understanding of these risks and benefits, the individual makes an informed decision; and

c) There will be substantial delay to receive an mRNA vaccine;

and a risk assessment deems the benefits outweigh the potential risks for the individual and the fetus.

If you are pregnant, it is important to talk with your health care provider about:

  • The emerging evidence on the safety of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy; and
  • The limited evidence on the use of viral vector vaccines during pregnancy.

This will help you make an informed decision about the right vaccine for you.

COVID-19 Vaccination: Special Populations - Vaccination in Pregnancy & Breastfeeding Decision-Making Tool for Pregnant Individuals.

Are you looking for more information on the use of COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy? You can find it by visiting the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada Statement on COVID-19 Vaccination in Pregnancy.

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 another vaccine or if I am due for another vaccine?

National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) currently recommends that people wait for at least 14 days after getting another vaccine before receiving any COVID-19 vaccine. 

NACI also recommends that people wait for 28 days after each dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before getting another vaccine. NACI made this recommendation when there was little information. It was made to maximize the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine while minimizing any risks of harm. It would be hard to figure out which vaccine may have caused an adverse event (AEFI) when more than one vaccine is given close together. This could lead to an adverse event being associated with the wrong vaccine.

If you are due for another vaccine soon and are also eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, please talk with your immunization provider.  Talk with them about which vaccine you should get first, based on your specific situation. If you are getting the other vaccine first, please book your COVID-19 vaccine appointment at least 14 days after your other vaccine.

There may be situations where OPH would give the COVID-19 vaccine based on a different schedule than the one above. For example, when the benefits of vaccination are greater than the potential unknown risks of getting two vaccines close together.  Examples of this include:

  • Tetanus-toxoid-containing vaccination as part of wound management
  • Rabies vaccination for post-exposure prophylaxis or
  • To avoid barriers or delays in COVID-19 vaccination

Please talk to your immunization provider about the benefits and risks of COVID-19 vaccination specific to you.

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

NACI recommends that a complete COVID-19 vaccine series with an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine should be offered to those in the approved age group. This includes those who are immunosuppressed due to illness or treatment or who have an autoimmune condition.

If an mRNA vaccine is contraindicated, another approved COVID-19 vaccine should be offered. The mRNA COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada are the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.  Viral vector vaccines, such as AstraZeneca or Janssen may be offered if:

a) The benefit-risk analysis shows that the benefit of earlier vaccination with the viral vector COVID-19 vaccine outweighs the risk of COVID-19 while waiting for an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine; and

b) The benefits, relative risk and consequences of VITT and COVID-19 for the individual are clearly explained. This includes factoring in the estimated waiting time to get an mRNA vaccine as well as other personal public health measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19. Based on an understanding of these risks and benefits, the individual makes an informed decision; and

c) There will be substantial delay to receive an mRNA vaccine;

If you are immunocompromised it is important to talk with your health care provider. Be sure to talk about the limited evidence on the use of viral vector COVID-19 vaccines in this population. This will help you make an informed decision about the right vaccine for you.

It is possible that those who are immunocompromised may have a decreased immune response to the COVID-19 vaccines. 

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. 

Can I receive a COVID-19 vaccine while breast/chestfeeding? 

NACI recommends that a complete vaccines series with an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine be offered to those in the authorized age group. This includes those who are breastfeeding. If an mRNA vaccine is contraindicated, another vaccine such as a viral vector vaccine may be offered.

NACI recommends that a complete series with a viral vector COVID-19 vaccine may be offered to individuals 30 years of age and older who are breastfeeding. It can be offered if:

a) The benefit-risk analysis determines that the benefit of earlier vaccination with the viral vector COVID-19 vaccine outweighs the risk of COVID-19 while waiting for an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine; and

b) The benefits, relative risk and consequences of VITT and COVID-19 for the individual are clearly explained. This includes factoring in the estimated waiting time to get an mRNA vaccine as well as other personal public health measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19. Based on an understanding about these risks and benefits, the individual makes an informed decision; and

c) There will be substantial delay to receive an mRNA vaccine;

If you are breast/chestfeeding, it is important to talk with your health care provider about:

  • The emerging evidence on the safety of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in this population; and
  • The limited evidence on the use of viral vector vaccines in this population.

This will help you make an informed decision about the right vaccine for you.

Recent data shows that mRNA from vaccines do not pass into breast milk. Antibodies made by the person who is breast/chestfeeding have been shown to pass through the milk and give protection to the infant.

For more information: Ministry of Health - COVID-19 Vaccination Recommendations for Special Populations.

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Other questions

What do the different government groups have to do with vaccines? 

Canada has three levels of government: federal, provincial and municipal (or local). Each level of government works together to make sure everyone that wants a COVID-19 vaccine can get one.

The Federal government:

  • procures (buys) vaccines on behalf of all jurisdictions
  • ensures safe and timely delivery on behalf of, and to, Provinces and Territories
  • authorizes safe and effective vaccines for use
  • provides scientific guidance on vaccine use
  • coordinates surveillance and reporting across Canada for adverse events

The Provincial government:

  • decides the policies and processes for vaccine distribution
  • coordinates vaccination programs for the populations they serve. This includes deciding on how to sequence doses
  • manages, tracks and shares data on coverage and adverse events

The Municipal (local) government: (e.g. City of Ottawa, Ottawa Public Health)

  • coordinates local logistics and delivery of vaccines received from the Province
  • administers the vaccines to people based on the vaccine rollout plan set out by the Province
  • locally determines the need for pop-up and mass vaccination clinics based on guidance from the Province
  • based on local need, coordinates outreach for specific population groups 
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?

Thank you for your interest in volunteering with Ottawa Public Health’s Community Clinic. Currently, Ottawa Public Health is not in need of volunteer support at the community clinics. For any inquiries related to volunteering at the community clinics, please contact: OPHVolunteerResources@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.  

Help us reach #CommunityImmunity by receiving two doses of any COVID-19 vaccine. Protecting yourself and others from COVID-19 and more transmissible variants is a two-step process.   

As an increasing number of residents in the City of Ottawa and surrounding areas are continuing to get vaccinated, it is essential that we all continue to do our part to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in the community. Please continue to maintain a distance from those outside your household, wear a mask when you can’t maintain distance, wash your hands, and stay home when you’re feeling sick. Continue to follow local and provincial guidance.   

To keep up to date with the latest information including things you can do to reduce virus spread, follow Ottawa Public Health on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also subscribe to the City of Ottawa’s weekly roundup of information regarding the City’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and follow Ottawa Public Health’s YouTube channel and Community Immunity website.  

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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