Last updated: February 23, 2021 at 2:10 p.m.

The Province’s vaccination program is in Phase 1 and COVID-19 vaccines will be available to the general public in Phase 3. Details about Phase 2 and Phase 3 timing, who is eligible and the status of completed vaccinations is on the Province’s website.

Toronto Public Health is currently not booking COVID-19 vaccination appointments for the general public. While vaccination is not mandatory, everyone is strongly encouraged to get vaccinated. Join your family and friends and plan to get vaccinated once vaccines become available to you.

The vaccines contain instructions to tell our cells to make a protein that is found specifically on the coronavirus (which is the virus that causes the COVID-19 illness). These “spike proteins,” although harmless to us, will trigger our body to start making antibodies. Our new antibodies will protect us from illness if we are exposed to the coronavirus.

The vaccines do not contain the virus and so it cannot give us COVID-19.

After Vaccinations

At this time, there is no information on the long-term protection with this vaccine. There is a small chance that you may still get COVID-19 after being vaccinated.

It is still important for everyone to continue with public health measures like wearing a mask, physical distancing, washing hands often, and staying home when sick until vaccines are more widely available and we can be sure that the vaccine prevents the spread of most COVID-19 infections.

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

Learn more about things you can do to reduce virus spread.

Two doses of the Pfizer vaccine is 95 per cent effective against getting COVID-19 symptoms, and two doses of the Moderna vaccine is 94 per cent effective against getting COVID-19 symptoms.

After completing the two-doses, it may take another one to two weeks to achieve maximum protection against COVID-19.

Canada has one of the best vaccine safety programs. Health Canada authorizes vaccines only when there is sufficient scientific and clinical evidence that they are safe, effective, and are manufactured to the highest quality standard. There are several systems in place to monitor the vaccine’s safety. We all have a role in keeping vaccines safe. Find out how.

Vaccines will help protect us against COVID-19. Like any medicine, some people may have side effects from the vaccine. Common side effects such as sore arm, muscle ache or mild fever may occur, lasting only a few days.

Please stay at your health care provider’s office or the clinic where you received the vaccine for 15 minutes after the vaccine is given. Your health care provider and/or the clinic is prepared to treat any reactions, if it happens.

Report to your health care provider or your local health unit if you have any unusual symptoms after receiving the vaccine. Symptoms may include:

  • A high fever (greater than 40°C).
  • An allergic reaction (rash, hives, itching, throat swelling, difficulty swallowing/breathing).
  • Severe vomiting, diarrhea and/or headache.
  • Reactions that are severe or require visit to a doctor or hospitalization.
  • Reactions that do not go away after a few days.
  • Reactions not listed as part of common side effects.

Some people may experience side effects from the vaccine, but they will likely be moderate and resolve after a few days. Some of the symptoms are part of the body’s response to developing immunity.

Common side effects that have been reported in the clinical trials for this vaccine include:

Very Common ≥10% (more than 1 in 10 doses)

  • pain at the injection site
  • headache
  • feeling tired
  • muscle or joint pain
  • fever or chills
  • swelling or tenderness under the armpit (only in Moderna vaccine)

Common 1%-10% (1 in 100 to 1 in 10 doses)

  • redness & swelling at the injection site
  • nausea & vomiting (only in Moderna vaccine)

Uncommon 1% (1 in 100 doses)

  • enlarged lymph nodes

Very Rare

  • serious allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis

In rare cases, serious allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) can occur. Allergic reactions can be treated and are usually temporary. Seek medical attention if you have trouble breathing, have hives, or swelling of the face and throat. Vaccine side effects will continue to be monitored as people receive the vaccine.

If you get a reaction to the vaccine, contact your health care provider who will report the side effect directly to public health. Public health will keep track of the reported side effects to make sure the vaccine continues to be safe.

The COVID-19 vaccines do not contain eggs, gelatin, preservatives or antibiotics. People with allergies to any vaccine ingredients listed below should not take this vaccine. Anyone with a severe reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine should not take the second dose.

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Ingredients:

  • mRNA (medicinal ingredient)
  • ALC-0315 = (4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate)
  • ALC-0159 = 2-[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N, N-ditetradecylacetamide
  • 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine
  • dibasic sodium phosphate dehydrate
  • monobasic potassium phosphate

Moderna Vaccine Ingredients:

  • mRNA (medicinal ingredient)
  • 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DSPC)
  • acetic acid, cholesterol, lipid SM-102
  • PEG2000DMG1,2-dimyristoyl-rac-glycerol,methoxy-polyethyleneglycol
  • tromethamine, tromethamine hydrochloride
  • sodium acetate, sucrose, and water for injection

Polyethylene glycol (PEG) is in both vaccines. It can also be found in laxatives, makeup, skin care products, personal lubricants, toothpastes, and some contact lenses. It is also in cough syrup, and in some food and drinks. If you are unsure of the ingredients you are allergic to, talk to a health care provider.

There is limited information on the use of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant people. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to have a baby, talk to your health care provider first. As a precaution, avoid pregnancy for one month after the second dose of the vaccine.

People with stable health conditions such diabetes, high blood pressure, including HIV, may receive COVID-19 vaccines as long they are not on medications that weaken the immune system. This also includes people with stable hepatitis B or C.

Some people may have had COVID-19 and recovered. It is still recommended that they get vaccinated. There is some evidence to suggest that natural immunity from a COVID-19 illness may not last very long. It is best to get vaccinated to stay protected.

COVID-19

COVID-19 is a viral infection that mainly affects the lungs. Some people may have a mild illness. Others may get very sick, including seniors or people with a pre-existing health condition. The virus can also hurt the lungs, heart, brain and other organs, increasing the risk of long-term health effects. Very rarely, some children can get a serious inflammatory condition. Some people are more likely to get COVID-19 because of where they live or work.

How the Vaccines Work

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease has a “spike protein” that is only found on the virus surface. The vaccines give instructions to cells to make the spike protein so that the body can learn to recognize the virus. These instructions are called messenger RNA (mRNA).  The body makes antibodies against the spike protein to protect us from getting sick if we are exposed to the virus. The vaccines do not contain the virus and so cannot give infect people with COVID-19.

Health Canada has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines, which were tested in large clinical trials to make sure that they are safe and effective. In these trials, the vaccines were 94-95% effective. Millions of people around the world have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Approved COVID-19 Vaccines

  • Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine can be given to people 16 years and older with 2 doses at least 21 days apart.
  • Moderna’s vaccine can be given to people 18 years and older with 2 doses at least 28 days apart.

The vaccines are safe for seniors and people with stable health conditions such diabetes and high blood pressure. People with stable hepatitis B, C or HIV, may receive COVID-19 vaccines. People with food, insect bite, medication or environmental allergies can get the vaccine as long as they do not have an allergy to any of the vaccine ingredients.  If you have allergy concerns, we recommend reviewing the list of non-medical ingredients in the vaccine in advance of getting it, or speaking with your family healthcare provider.

Important to Know

Both vaccines require two doses to provide the most protection. If you miss your second appointment, schedule another appointment as soon as possible. It may take another two weeks after your second dose for your body to build a good immune response against COVID-19. There is a small chance that you may still get COVID-19 after vaccination. Currently, there is no information on how long the vaccine’s protection will last. If vaccine protection decreases, a booster dose may be recommended in the future.

Side Effects and Risks

Some people may have side effects from the vaccines. Common side effects include:

  • redness, pain or swelling at the injection site
  • headache, feeling tired, muscle aches, joint pain
  • fever, chills, nausea, vomiting
  • pain or swelling under the armpit (in the Moderna vaccine only)
  • enlarged lymph nodes (this is less common)

Side effects are more common after the second dose. Side effects usually last one to three days. The side effects can be a sign that your body is developing an immune response to the vaccine. In rare cases, serious allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) can occur. Allergic reactions can be treated and are usually temporary. Seek medical attention if you have trouble breathing, hives, or swelling of the face and throat. If you have a reaction to the vaccine, speak with your health care provider to report the symptoms directly to public health. Public health will track reported side effects to ensure vaccine safety.

Delay vaccination, if you: have a fever or COVID-19 symptoms. COVID-19 vaccine cannot be given with other vaccines. If you have just received a vaccine, wait 14 days before getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Speak with a health care provider first, if you:

  • are pregnant, could be pregnant or are breastfeeding
  • have a bleeding disorder or weakened immunity due to illness or treatment
  • had an allergic reaction within four hours after receiving your first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine

Do not get this vaccine, if you:

  • have known severe allergies/reactions to any vaccine ingredients, including polyethylene glycol or tromethamine (in Moderna vaccine only)
  • had a severe reaction to your first dose of COVID-19 vaccine

Continue to protect yourself and others

Until there are enough vaccines for everyone, and until we know that the vaccine prevents the spread of most COVID-19 infections, it is important to continue physical distancing, wearing a mask, and staying home if you are sick. Health care and other staff must still wear personal protective equipment (PPE), even after vaccination.

For more information: talk to your health care provider, or visit our website at toronto.ca/COVID19.

Download this information as a PDF (also available in Amharic | Arabic | Bengali | Simplified Chinese | Traditional Chinese | Dari | Farsi | French | German | Greek | Gujarati | Hindi | Hungarian | Italian | Karen | Korean | Nepali | Polish | Portuguese | PunjabiRussian | Serbian | Somali | Spanish | Tagalog | Tamil | Tigrinya | Turkish | Ukrainian | Urdu | Vietnamese).

Health Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine information is also available in Cree | Dene | Eastern Ojibwe | Innu-Aimun | Inuinnaqtun | Inuktitut (Nunavik) | Michif | Mikmaq | Oji-Cree | Western Ojibwe.

American Sign Language (ASL) Translation