Last updated: October 20, 2021 at 3:18 p.m.

While vaccination is not mandatory, everyone is strongly encouraged to get vaccinated. Join your family and friends and get vaccinated. Learn more about the benefits of getting vaccinated. Text “VACCINE” to 1-833-750-0888 for information about vaccines, how to get vaccinated and telephone town halls.

COVID-19 vaccines teach our immune system to make antibodies that protect us from the COVID-19 virus. These antibodies will provide protection from getting, spreading, and becoming severely sick with COVID-19. None of the vaccines contain COVID-19 and cannot give us the virus.

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are called ‘messenger RNA’ or ‘mRNA’ vaccines. They use mRNA to give our cells instructions to make antibodies. The mRNA does not change our DNA. Watch a video from the Government of Canada for more information on how mRNA vaccines work.

The AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines are called ‘viral vector’ vaccines. They use a modified cold virus to give our cells instructions to make antibodies. The cold virus in the vaccine is inactive and will not make us sick.

mRNA and viral vector vaccines use technology that has been around for over 10 years. The mRNA provides instructions to our immune system to make antibodies.

The vaccine doses are given using a needle in your upper arm. It takes at least two weeks after getting a vaccine dose to be protected. To be considered fully vaccinated, The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines require two doses, and one dose for the Janssen vaccine.

Studies on how long protection lasts in the general population are ongoing and booster doses may be recommended in the future.

 

COVID-19 vaccines were developed without skipping any safety steps. This was possible because of advances in science, international collaboration and increased funding.

The COVID-19 vaccines used in Ontario have been fully approved by Health Canada. They have met the same safety and quality standards required for all vaccines, and have been tested in large clinical trials to show they are safe and they work. No steps were skipped in the approval process.

Canada has one of the best vaccine safety programs. Vaccines must pass many safety tests before they are considered to be safe for people. 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.

Watch a video from the Government of Canada to learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines are developed.

After getting your vaccine please:

  • Keep the paper or electronic vaccination record you get from the clinic
    • If you were vaccinated at a City immunization clinic and did not receive your vaccination record, please call the Provincial Vaccine Information Line at 1-888-999-6488 (TTY 1-866-797-0007)
    • If you were vaccinated at a pharmacy and did not receive your vaccination record, please call the pharmacy
  • Tell your health care provider that you got vaccinated
  • Speak to your health care provider if you have any serious reactions, especially if they lasts longer than 3 days
  • Check your email or cell phone for your second vaccine appointment

Continue with public health measures

Until most people are vaccinated (herd immunity), you still need to:

  • Wear a mask
  • Keep your distance from others you do not live with
  • Wash your hands often
  • Stay home when you are sick

Health care workers and staff must still wear personal protective equipment (PPE), even after they get their vaccine.

Learn more about how to reduce virus spread.

Like all medicine, some people may have side effects from the vaccine. If these side effects happen they usually last for 1 to 3 days.

Common side effects:

  • sore arm
  • headache
  • feeling tired
  • muscle or joint pain
  • fever
  • chills
  • feeling like you are going to vomit (nausea) and/or vomiting

Some side effects are more common after the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Learn more about rare side effects with the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine and the mRNA vaccines.

After your vaccine please stay at the clinic for 15 minutes. You will be monitored for any reactions. In very rare cases, serious allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) can occur. Allergic reactions can be treated and are usually temporary. Get medical attention if you get allergic reactions such as hives, itching, swelling of the face and throat, and/or trouble breathing.

 

The vaccine contains an active ingredient that gives our body instructions to make antibodies. Other vaccine ingredients include lipids (fats), salts, sugars and buffers.

COVID-19 vaccines do not contain eggs, gelatin (pork), gluten, latex, preservatives, antibiotics or aluminum.

People with allergies to any of the vaccine ingredients should not get the vaccine. If you get a serious reaction after your first dose, do not get the second dose. Talk to your health care provider if you are unsure about which ingredients you are allergic to.

Polyethylene glycol (PEG) is in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. PEG can also be found in laxatives, makeup, skin care products, personal lubricants, toothpastes, and some contact lenses. It is also in cough syrup, over-the-counter medications, and in some food and drinks.

Tromethamine is in the Moderna vaccine. It helps to make the vaccine stable. Tromethamine can be found in dyes used for CT or MRI scans, medications, cosmetics, perfumes and skin creams.

Polysorbate-80 is in the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccines. It is used to hold (or bind) the vaccine ingredients together. Polysorbate-80 can be found in most processed food, sauces, condiments, soups, ice cream, chewing gum, soaps, creams, bath gels, shampoo, body butter, cosmetics, vitamins, heart medication and contraceptives (birth control).

Vaccine Ingredients

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

  • active ingredient: messenger RNA (mRNA)
  • lipids, cholesterol, polyethylene glycol [PEG]
  • salts: potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dehydrate
  • sugars: sucrose

Moderna vaccine

  • active ingredient: mRNA
  • lipids, cholesterol, polyethylene glycol [PEG]
  • buffers: tromethamin, tromethamin hydrocholoride
  • salts: acetic acid, sodium acetate,
  • sugars: sucrose

AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine

  • active ingredient: adenovirus vector (ChAdOx1-S recombinant)
  • amino acid: L-Histidine, L-Histidine hydrochloride monohydrate
  • emulsifier: polysorbate 80
  • salts: sodium chloride, disodium edetate dihydrate (EDTA), magnesium chloride hexahydrate
  • sugars: sucrose
  • alcohol: ethanol

Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine

  • active ingredient: adenovirus vector (Ad26.COV2.S recombinant)
  • buffers/ acidity regulators: citric acid monohydrate, hydrochloric acid, sodium hydroxide, trisodium citrate dehydrate
  • alcohol: ethanol
  • emulsifier: 2-hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin, polysorbate-80
  • salts: sodium chloride

Pregnant individuals are able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at any point in their pregnancy. Many people who are pregnant have gotten very sick from COVID-19 requiring hospitalization and critical care. Getting vaccinated is safe and an important way to be protected in pregnancy.

Talk to your doctor or midwife if you have questions about getting vaccinated and to understand benefits of getting the vaccine compared to the risks of getting the COVID-19 infection. For many people, getting a COVID-19 vaccine is the safest choice.

The Society of Obstetricians & Gynecologists of Canada also recommends pregnant people get vaccinated in pregnancy. Many pregnant people who get COVID-19 can have mild symptoms. However, especially with the new variants spreading in Ontario, some can get very sick and develop respiratory complications that need care in the hospital. Giving birth too early in pregnancy (preterm birth) may be more common.

Vaccines can protect against these variants and lower the risk of severe illness while pregnant. All COVID-19 vaccines are safe in pregnancy and are being used around the world.

If you are planning on becoming pregnant, it is recommended to get both doses of the vaccine ahead of pregnancy (where possible) when it’s available to you. There is no evidence that fertility problems are a side effect of any vaccine.

If you are pregnant or become pregnant soon after getting the first dose of the vaccine you will have to decide if you should get the second dose. The decision should be made by looking at the risks of not being completely vaccinated during pregnancy.

While COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials did not include people who were pregnant or breastfeeding, many people who are pregnant and have been vaccinated are being followed to ensure the vaccine continues to be safe.

How to book your COVID-19 vaccination:

Find out where you are eligible to book and how to book an appointment.

Before going for your clinic appointment, talk to your health care provider about:

  • the risks and benefits of the vaccine
  • the risks of getting a COVID-19 infection during pregnancy
  • the risks of a COVID-19 infection during pregnancy
  • how clinical trials and real world data can provide evidence on the safety of the vaccines in pregnancy.

Please note:

  • A letter from a health care provider is not required for vaccination.
  • You are encouraged to receive your second dose as soon as you are eligible to ensure maximum protection against COVID-19.

For more information:

Resource:

Watch North York General Hospital’s video on getting the COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy:

Source: North York General Hospital

Breastfeeding has many benefits for you and your baby including protecting your baby against many illnesses. The Society of Obstetricians & Gynecologists of Canada recommends vaccination for pregnant and breastfeeding people who do not have any medical conditions that prevent them from getting the vaccine.

There is no need to avoid starting breastfeeding or to stop breastfeeding to receive the vaccine. Getting the vaccine can help protect you from becoming sick with COVID-19 and passing it to your baby.

Some studies have shown that antibodies were found in the breastmilk of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine which may protect their infant. More studies are needed to determine how much protection this offers. While people who are breastfeeding were not included in most of the vaccine clinical trials, the vaccines are considered safe for people who are breastfeeding because of the way the vaccines work in the body.

Talk to your health care provider if you have questions about getting vaccinated and to understand the benefits of getting the vaccine compared to the risks of getting the COVID-19 infection. For most people, getting a COVID-19 vaccine is the safest choice.

For more information:

People with stable health conditions can get vaccinated. Conditions include: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, respiratory diseases, including asthma or COPD, hepatitis B, C and HIV.

People with a weak immune system because of illness, treatment or an autoimmune condition:

  • can get the vaccine safely;
  • should speak to their health care provider before getting vaccinated; and
  • may have lower protection from the vaccine.

People taking medication that make their immune system weak may be able to schedule their vaccine and treatment to get the best protection.

People of all levels of ability can get COVID-19. Some people with disabilities may be at higher risk of getting COVID-19. For example, those who require daily service provision or who reside in congregate care settings may be at higher risk.

Most people should get a COVID-19 vaccine. Ask your doctor or healthcare provider if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccine Clinics and Appointments

Review information about Vaccine Eligibility to see if you can get your COVID-19 vaccine now. Caregivers may also be able to get the vaccine at the same time.

See the interactive map of the City Immunization Clinics to find clinic locations and information about accessibility and accommodations.

Bring your mobility device with you to the appointment, if you use one. One support person can accompany you, if needed. See What to Expect at City Immunization Clinics for more information.

If you need help to get to the vaccination clinic, see Transportation to Clinics.

Other Resources

Other helpful resources can be found on the COVID-19: Vaccine Resources page, including an American Sign Language translation of information about COVID-19 vaccines. Also see this video on Getting Ready for Your COVID Vaccine.

On May 5, 2021 Health Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 15. Clinical studies showed that this vaccine was safe and effective for this age group. The Pfizer vaccine is now approved for all individuals 12 years of age and older.

Most children with COVID-19 have mild symptoms or none at all. However, some children with COVID-19 can get very sick. Children can also spread COVID-19 to other people.  Vaccinating children protects them from getting sick and reduces virus spread within their household and the community.

While fewer children compared to adults have gotten sick from COVID-19, they have been impacted in many other ways. All children in Ontario have had to attend school remotely, miss out on extra-curricular activities, and spend extended amounts of time away from their friends and peers. This has a big impact on children’s mental health. Vaccinating all who are eligible, including children, will help to reduce the number of cases of COVID-19 in our community and allow kids to get to participating in activities they enjoy.


Resources:

People who have had COVID-19 in the past should still get vaccinated. Natural immunity from having COVID-19 may not last long and may not protect against COVID-19 variants. Get vaccinated to stay protected.

Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, including fever, should not go to a vaccine clinic. Please wait at least 10 days until you are no longer in self-isolation or your symptoms have gone away.

Name

Technology

Age group

Dose schedule

Availability

Pfizer BioNTech mRNA 12 years + 2 doses Available
Moderna

Note: Pfizer-BioNTech is recommended for 12-24 year olds.

mRNA 12 years + 2 doses Available
AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD Viral vector 40 years + 2 doses On pause
Janssen Viral vector 18 years + 1 dose Not yet available

All adverse events investigated by Toronto Public Health are forwarded to the province, then to Public Health Agency of Canada. Adverse events are also compared internationally.

The Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada and Public Health Ontario are closely monitoring rare reports of potential myocarditis/pericarditis following a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, including those among youth. In Canada, there have been a small number of these reports and no conclusive association has been established between myocarditis/pericarditis and mRNA vaccines at this point in time.

To date, Public Health Ontario has received reports of a small number of cases of myocarditis/pericarditis among youth 12 to 17 years of age in Ontario. At this early time, the small number of cases seen among adolescents to date in Ontario have been mild and have resolved without any concerns about potential long-term complications.

On August 27, 2021 Health Canada authorized the use of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for ages 12 and over. After a thorough review of the current global and Canadian experience and vaccine safety surveillance data, Ontario will continue using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for youth ages 12-17 (including those turning 12 in 2021). In this age group, there is more experience and possibly a lower rate of myocarditis/pericarditis to date with this vaccine.

As of September 29, 2021, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health recommends that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is preferred for individuals aged 18-24 years old. This recommendation is due to an observed increase in Ontario of pericarditis/myocarditis following vaccination with Moderna compared to Pfizer in the 18 to 24 year old age group, particularly among males. The majority of reported cases have been mild with individuals recovering quickly, normally with anti-inflammatory medication. Symptoms have typically been reported to start within one week after vaccination, more commonly after the second dose. Individuals 18-24 years old can still receive the Moderna vaccine with informed consent.

Toronto Public Health closely monitors COVID-19 vaccine safety alongside federal and provincial public health agencies to ensure vaccines continue to be safe.

Myocarditis and Pericarditis

  • Myocarditis and pericarditis are types of inflammation in different parts of the heart.
  • These types of inflammation of the heart can be caused by the body’s response to an infection, injury or complications of an auto-immune disease.
  • Some people who have had a COVID-19 infection have also experienced myocarditis.

Potential Side Effects and Seeking Medical Attention

Most side effects of COVID-19 vaccines are mild and last for 1-3 days.

Severe side effects are rare. Get medical attention right away if you develop any of these symptoms after receiving an mRNA vaccine:

  • Chest pain/feelings of pressure or tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations/irregular heart beat

Vaccine Benefits

Vaccination continues to be recommended for everyone 12 years of age and older, considering the long-term effects and serious complications related to a COVID-19 infection.

For individuals who experience myocarditis/pericarditis after receiving a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, the decision to administer a second dose of the vaccine should be made on a case-by-case basis, until further data on this condition and the possible causality between mRNA vaccines and myocarditis/pericarditis is available.

Speak to your health care provider if you have questions about getting a mRNA vaccine.

More Information

The viral vector vaccines approved in Canada are: AstraZeneca (also known as COVISHIELD) and Janssen (also known as Johnson and Johnson).

Vaccine-Induced Immune Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia (VITT)

  • Rare blood clots (thrombosis) and low blood platelet counts (blood cells that help the body stop bleeding) may be linked to the viral vector vaccines. This is called Vaccine-induced Immune Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia (VITT).
  • The blood clots occur at a rate of about 1 in 50,000 (for AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD) and 1 in 500,000 (for Janssen).
  • VITT can be treated if detected early.
  • Health Canada will keep monitoring these rare side effects, and will provide updates or take other actions as needed.

Vaccine Benefits

Viral vector vaccines can prevent severe COVID-19 infections that can cause someone to become very sick, go to the hospital and possibly die.

Speak to your health care provider if you have questions about getting a viral vector vaccine.

Potential Side Effects and Seeking Medical Attention

  • Look out for side effects up to 4 weeks after getting the vaccine.
  • Most side effects are mild and last for 1 to 3 days. Some side effects can happen 4 to 28 days after vaccination.
  • Severe side effects are rare. Get medical care right away if you develop any of these symptoms after getting a viral vector vaccine:
    • Trouble breathing, chest pain, or leg swelling
    • New or worse abdominal (stomach) pain
    • Severe or worsening headache, or blurred vision
    • Skin bruising or spots (other than where you got the vaccine)

Already Received a First Dose of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD

If you already received a first dose of the AstraZeneca or COVISHIELD vaccine, it’s important to remember that serious side effects are rare events. It is established that 28 days after you received the vaccine, the risk of severe side effects has passed.

As of June 17, 2021, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that an mRNA (Pfizer or Moderna) COVID-19 vaccine is now preferred as the second dose for people who received a first dose of the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine. If you received a first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine you can choose to either receive a second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, or an mRNA (Pfizer or Moderna) vaccine for your second dose. Both second-dose options are safe and provide strong protection against COVID-19 and will count as a completed series. You will be eligible to receive your second dose at an eight week interval. Learn more about how to book your second dose.

More information