COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ
What vaccines are currently approved in Canada?
To date, the following COVID-19 vaccines have been authorized for use in Canada by Health Canada:
- Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
- Moderna COVID-19 vaccine
- AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine
- COVISHIELD COVID-19 vaccine
- Janssen COVID-19 vaccine
Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the only COVID-19 vaccine authorized by Health Canada for children aged 12 and up.
All vaccines for COVID-19 authorized for use in Canada have been evaluated by Health Canada, using rigorous standards. Health Canada will continue to monitor all vaccines to make sure they are safe and effective.
What should I tell my health care provider prior to receiving the vaccine?
Be sure to tell your health care provider if you are feeling unwell or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, have had previous allergic reactions or adverse effects to a vaccine, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding* (note: vaccines are safe for both), if you are immunocompromised, have a bleeding disorder or take medications that could affect blood clotting.
You should also let your provider know if you have received any other (non-COVID-19) vaccine within the past 14 days.
If you are receiving your second dose, tell the health care provider administering the second dose if you had any side effects after the first dose.
*Vaccination in Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Decision-Making Support Tool: https://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/pro/programs/publichealth/coronavirus/docs/vaccine/COVID-19_vaccination_pregnancy_clinical_support_tool.pdf
How is the vaccine administered?
The COVID-19 vaccine is given as a needle in the upper arm (into the deltoid muscle). The province is extend the time interval of the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna up to 16 weeks after the first dose and AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccines at or greater than 12 weeks.
When should I return for my second dose?
Your vaccine clinic or health care provider will instruct you on receiving your second dose. For the two-dose vaccines, optimal protection against COVID-19 is most effective following the second dose. It is very important that you receive the second dose even if you experienced side effects the first time.
Be sure to bring your immunization record when attending your appointment.
My first dose was the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine, what are my options for the second dose?
Individuals who received a first dose of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD and who do not wish to receive AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD for a second dose will be provided the option to receive an mRNA vaccine product for their second dose.
My first dose was the Pfizer-BioNTech/ Moderna (mRNA vaccines), what are my options for a second dose?
Individuals who received a first dose of the Moderna or Pfizer mRNA vaccines may receive either Moderna or Pfizer for their second dose. Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are very similar and NACI advises mRNA vaccines are safe to be used together in a vaccine schedule.
How long does the second dose take to be effective?
Generally, the second dose takes an average of two weeks to become most effective, though it depends on the individual.
What do I do if I have a severe allergic reaction?
Clinic staff are prepared to manage a severe allergic reaction should it occur. When receiving your second dose of COVID-19 vaccine, tell the health care provider administering the second dose if you had any side effects after the first dose
What are the side effects of the vaccine?
Like all vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccines may cause side effects; however not everyone experiences them and those who do experience them, mostly report mild side effects within the first 1-2 days after vaccination.
The most commonly reported side effects are localized reactions including pain, swelling, and colour changes in the skin (e.g. red, purple) at the injection site, and tiredness, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, chills, and mild fever.
Studies have also shown that reports of severe side effects are extremely rare, and Canada will continue to monitor for any potential longer term side effects.
What do I do if I experience severe side effects?
If you experience side effects that are worrying you or do not seem to be going away after a few days, contact your health care provider or seek medical attention. Go to the nearest emergency department or call 911 if any of the following adverse reactions develop within three days of receiving the vaccine:
- swelling of the face or mouth
- trouble breathing
- serious drowsiness
- high fever (over 40°C)
- convulsions or seizures
- other serious symptoms (e.g., “pins and needles” or numbness)
If you have received the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine and you develop any of the following symptoms after receiving the vaccine, please seek immediate medical attention:
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- leg swelling or pain
- persistent abdominal pain
- skin bruising (other than at the site of vaccination) or petechiae (red or purple spots or blood blisters under the skin)
- sudden onset of severe headaches or persistent or worsening headaches
- blurred vision, double vision or dizziness
- confusion or seziures
- difficulty speaking or moving a part of the body
You can also contact your local public health unit to ask questions or to report an adverse reaction.
I’ve heard reports of blood clots from receiving the vaccine, should I be concerned?
Very rarely, the AstraZeneca and COVISHIELD COVID-19 vaccines have been associated with a rare form of blood clot after vaccination. Doctors are calling this Vaccine-Induced Immune Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia (VITT).
These blood clots have two important features:
- they typically occur 4 to 28 days after vaccination, and
- they are associated with low platelets (tiny blood cells that help form blood clots to stop bleeding).
VITT seems to be rare. The rate of VITT is estimated to be approximately 1 per 127,000 persons vaccinated with AstraZeneca and/or COVISHIELD COVID-19 vaccine.
Who should delay having the vaccine?
- If you have had any vaccine in the past 14 days, including non-COVID-19
- If you are experiencing symptoms of acute illness or COVID-19
- If you are in self-isolation or quarantine due to potential exposure to COVID-19