COVID-19 Vaccine & Vaccination Frequently Asked Questions


Shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine are received in limited supply on a non-scheduled, ongoing basis. The Health Unit is following the provincial ethical framework for COVID-19 vaccine distribution and is currently in phase 1 of the plan. Please view our Local COVID-19 Vaccination Status, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for updates as we move through the provincial COVID-19 vaccine plan. If you don’t get online often or if your question isn’t answered here, call our COVID-19 Call Centre at 1-800-563-2808 option 5.

On This Page (click to view):

About the Vaccine
Getting the Vaccine
Side Effects
Vaccine Effectiveness
Variants of Concern (VOCs)

About the Vaccine

What is the COVID-19 vaccine?

A vaccine is a substance that gets your immune system to make antibodies that will protect you against unwanted viruses. After being vaccinated, you develop immunity to the disease without having to get that disease first. This is what makes vaccines such powerful medicine. Unlike most medicines, which treat or cure diseases, vaccines keep you from getting sick in the first place.

Health Canada has approved three COVID-19 vaccines for use in Canada:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Moderna
  •  Oxford–AstraZeneca - This vaccine was approved on Friday, Februray 26, 2021. We are in the process of updating this page to include more information about this vaccine. 

To be fully protected from the virus you must receive two vaccine doses, if required, and follow public health measures after being vaccinated.

What are the differences between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines?

The two vaccines available in Canada are similar in many ways and both vaccines are highly effective in protecting against COVID-19. Here is a chart comparing the two vaccines to see the differences:


What type of vaccine is it?

mRNA vaccine

mRNA vaccine

When was it approved?

December 9, 2020

December 23, 2020

How is it given?

Injection into the shoulder muscle

Injection into the shoulder muscle

How much is given?

Two doses of 0.3 mL

Two doses of 0.5 mL

When is the second dose given?

21 days after the first dose (However, the second dose may be safely delayed beyond 21 days if necessary)

28 days after the first dose

How effective is it?

95% effective

94% effective

How long after my vaccine will it take to be protected against COVID-19?

7 days after the second dose

14 days after the second dose

How is it stored?

In freezers between -60 to -80 degrees Celsius (these temperatures make it hard to transport)

In freezers of -20 degrees Celsius

How does it work?

Normally, vaccines work by injecting a weakened or inactive virus (or a component of the virus, like a specific protein) into the body, which triggers an immune response. Pfizer and Moderna are different, because they work by delivering instructions to human cells to build a viral protein. The protein is then recognized by the body as foreign. These proteins, known as antigens, use the body’s normal processes to safely produce an immune response. This is why Pfizer and Moderna are called messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines.

Will other COVID-19 vaccines become available?

The government of Canada has agreements for several other vaccine candidates that are in development or undergoing trials, so different vaccines may become available at a later date.

Getting the Vaccine

When can I get the vaccine?

In Ontario, a three-phase Vaccine Distribution Implementation Plan is in effect, prioritizing the highest risk areas and individuals. When you can get the vaccine depends on:

  • which of the three phases you fit as an individual.
  • the time it takes for our Health Unit region to receive supply of the vaccine and work our way through the prioritized areas and individuals as listed in the provincial plan.

We will continue to receive small amounts of vaccine in the weeks and likely months to come, and let the appropriate people know when they are able to be vaccinated.

Who will get vaccinated first? 

The Health Unit is following the provincial ethical framework for COVID-19 vaccine distribution. View our list of priority populations for early COVID-19 vaccination.

If I don't get the vaccine when it's my turn, will I be able to get it later?

Yes. Everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one. For example, a frontline health care worker in long-term care is prioritized to get their vaccine in phase 1, but they’re unsure, so they delay. They will be able to fit in any prioritization after their priority grouping. They can have it through to the end of phase 3.

Is the vaccine mandatory?

No. At this point, there is no indication that the Canadian or Ontario governments intend to make the vaccine mandatory.

What happens if I choose not to be vaccinated?

At this time, we don’t know whether proof of vaccination may be required for some activities, nor whether proof of vaccination against COVID-19 will eventually become mandatory for school-aged children like other vaccines.

I live and/or work on a First Nation. When will I get my vaccine?

Adults in Indigenous communities are a priority population, so yes, those on a First Nation (live and/or work) will be among the first groups to be able to get the vaccine.

Will independent seniors who are 70/80/90 years old, but not in a long-term care or retirement home be able to get a vaccine before the general population?

Yes. Those who are 70 years of age and older are one of the priority high risk groups that will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine before the general population.

Vaccinations for this group will begin with adults 80 years of age and older and then decreasing the age limit by 5-year increments to age 70 years as supply becomes available.

Can my child receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

No. At this time, the vaccine is not licenced for those under 16 years old (for the Pfizer vaccine) or under 18 years old (for the Moderna vaccine). There’s not enough data available on the safety and effectiveness of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in children. Pediatric studies are ongoing, but until we can be certain the vaccines are suitable for children, they should not be administered to this group.

Given the serious impact of COVID-19 on older individuals, healthy children will be a lowest priority group in the vaccine rollout, even once vaccination is approved for this age group. As a result, it will be some time before children are offered the vaccine. However, as more adults get vaccinated, this will hopefully provide protection to children by reducing transmission from adults, such as parents or teachers, to children.

If I had a reaction to a different vaccine in the past, can I still get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Check with your doctor or health care provider if you have had a serious allergic reaction to a vaccine in the past. They will look at your medical records and help you make the decision.

Is it acceptable for someone with food or seasonal allergies to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. In most cases it is, but you should discuss with your primary healthcare provider to learn if the COVID-19 vaccine is safe for you. Individuals with a history of severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine should not receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

If I tested positive for COVID-19 in the past, should I still get the vaccine?

Yes. You will have some immunity from your infection, but no one knows how long it will last. There are cases where people have gotten COVID-19 again before they could get vaccinated.

You should not get the vaccine if you are sick or have COVID-19 right now. Wait until you are better to get the vaccine.

I just got vaccinated for something else. Can I still get the COVID-19 vaccine now?

You should wait 14 days before receiving the COVID-19 vaccine if you have had another type of vaccine. After receiving your second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, you should not receive any other vaccines for 28 days. If for some reason you need another vaccine within 28 days, discuss this with your health care provider.

Who should not get the vaccine?

  • People who have allergies to the COVID-19 vaccine ingredients should not be vaccinated.  Talk to your doctor or health care provider if you are unsure.
  • People who have had a serious allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine (first dose) should not receive a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Right now, the following people should not routinely be offered the COVID-19 vaccine because they were not included in the trials for most of the potential COVID-19 vaccines:

  • Under 16 years old (for the Pfizer vaccine) or 18 years old (for the Moderna vaccine);
  • Acutely ill individuals, as a precautionary measure;
  • Individuals who have received another vaccine (not a COVID-19 vaccine) in the past 14 days.

If you are immunocompromised, have underlying health conditions, are pregnant or breastfeeding, we suggest having a conversation with your healthcare provider first to make an informed decision about getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

If you believe you would benefit from being vaccinated, talk to your doctor or health care provider.

When will vaccine clinics be run?

Community clinics for the general public are a part of the third phase and are not expected to take place before the second or third quarters of 2021.

How can I make an appointment to get the vaccine?

The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit will provide detailed updates to the general public on how to make an appointment once we receive vaccine shipments. Please continue to check our website or social media updates for more information. If you do not have access to online information, please feel free to call our call centre for updates.

How will the vaccine be given? Is the vaccine one dose or two?

The vaccine is injected into the muscle of the arm, just like most flu shots. You will need to get two doses, with the second one being 21 or 28 days later depending on the brand type you receive. Studies have shown that most people are not protected against COVID-19 for seven to 14 days after the second dose, depending on the vaccine brand.

Can I just get one dose?

A complete series includes two doses for maximum protection.

Which COVID-19 vaccine will I receive?

The type of vaccine will be dependent on what is available from the Ministry. At this point, there are only two vaccines licenced in Canada: Moderna and Pfizer. Both of these are most effective after receiving two doses. Whichever vaccine you receive in your first dose will be the same vaccine you receive as your second dose.

There is no need to be concerned about which vaccine you receive, since the differences between the two vaccines are minimal, and both are highly effective in protecting against COVID-19.

Will people need to get the vaccine every year or is it just the two doses?

At this time, both COVID-19 vaccines will only be administered in two doses. We do not know at this point if the vaccine will need to be given every year or not.

Once I am considered fully vaccinated, do I still have to follow public health measures?

Yes. Please continue to follow public health measures even after you are vaccinated. As larger numbers of people are vaccinated, or trends in the disease change, public health recommendations will likely change as well. Check the Health Unit website regularly to stay up-to-date with current recommendations and regulations.

If someone travels after getting the vaccine, do they still need to self-isolate for 14 days after returning from their trip?

Yes. Self-isolation for two weeks following travel is a requirement of the current Quarantine Act, and it will continue to remain in effect following vaccine administration. At this time, non-essential travel is not recommended.

Side Effects

What are the common side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine?

The most common side effects are mild to moderate. They include:
  • pain at the injection site;
  • headache;
  • fatigue;
  • muscle and joint pain;
  • chills;
  • fever.

Even if you experience mild side effects, it is important to receive the second dose. You may get the same side effects with your second dose.

If someone gets one or more of the side effects from the vaccine that is also a symptom of COVID-19, will they need to self-isolate and/or get tested?

Yes. Since it does takes on average two weeks for your body to respond to the vaccine, anyone who has symptoms should self-isolate. It is possible that someone could have been exposed to the virus in the days prior to the vaccine. If they are feeling unwell, they should stay home, self-isolate and make arrangements for testing if symptoms continue. If they have had a known exposure to a positive or probable case, then certainly they should be tested.

What are the long term side effects?

The manufacturers are planning to follow clinical trial participants.  Manufactures must communicate any potential safety concerns to Health Canada. Health professionals are required to report detrimental events following immunization to their local Health Unit so these reactions can be noted by Public Health Ontario.

Are there any serious side effects?

Serious side effects are very rare, but can include:

  • hives;
  • swelling of mouth and throat;
  • trouble breathing, hoarseness or wheezing;
  • fever over 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit;
  • seizures.

Has the vaccine been shown to cause Bell's Palsy?

No. A direct connection with the vaccine and Bell’s palsy (a condition that causes temporary facial paralysis) has not been found. Pfizer studied 38,000 patients and found four cases of Bell’s palsy among those who received the vaccine, but this is in keeping with the normal observed incidence of Bell's palsy in the population. The COVID-19 vaccine, like all vaccines, continues to be monitored for adverse events.

Can I get COVID-19 from receiving the vaccine?

No. There is no live COVID-19 in the vaccine.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine stop the COVID-19 virus, or will it decrease the severity of the virus if I get infected?

The vaccines are very effective at preventing COVID-19 symptoms in people who get the full two doses. It is not known if you can still get and give the infection to someone that has not been immunized if you have been exposed to the virus.

Vaccine Effectiveness

I have heard there are new strains of the COVID-19 virus. Is there information about the effectiveness of the existing vaccine on the new strains?

Currently, experts believe the vaccine will work with the new strain. There is no evidence to suggest the vaccine will not be effective against the new strain; however, this is currently being explored through studies.

Why should I get vaccinated if the COVID-19 infection has a 99% survival rate?

The short-term side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are less than the risk and potential long-term health damages caused by the COVID-19 virus. COVID-19 can be a serious illness for many people and for some, symptoms can last for months. Even young, healthy people can feel unwell for weeks to months following the COVID-19 infection. The virus can even damage the heart, brain, lungs and increase the risk of long-term health problems.

Some people have had COVID-19 twice and they should have had antibodies against the virus. Why do we think the vaccine will work when having the virus didn't protect some people?

Neither having the infection previously nor getting the vaccine can provide 100% protection against COVID-19. Since everyone’s body responds differently to vaccines, we recommend everyone, whether they are immunized or not, continue to follow public health guidelines.

What percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated for the vaccine to be effective?

We don’t yet know how much of our population needs to be vaccinated for there to be community herd immunity. This is an area of ongoing research. Everyone responds differently following exposure to the virus and after being vaccinated. The more people vaccinated with two doses of vaccine the better, as it helps to create herd immunity.

What is herd immunity?

When most of a population is immune to an infectious disease, this provides indirect protection—or herd immunity (also called herd protection)—to those who are not immune to the disease.

For example, if 80% of a population is immune to a virus, four out of every five people who encounter someone with the disease won’t get sick (and won’t spread the disease any further). In this way, the spread of infectious diseases is kept under control. Depending how contagious an infection is, usually 50% to 90% of a population needs immunity to achieve herd immunity.

These vaccines underwent a "Fast Track" process for approval in Canada. Does this affect their safety? How can I be sure the vaccines are safe?

Canada’s high standards for drug and vaccine review, approval and monitoring have not been compromised in the quick development and rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines. After independent and thorough scientific reviews for safety, effectiveness and quality, Health Canada has approved two vaccines for use in Canada:

    • Pfizer-BioNTech – approved on December 9, 2020
    • Moderna – approved on December 23, 2020
  • Both products meet the requirements and regulations of Health Canada’s Food and Drugs Act.
  • They successfully went through all the same safety checks and completed required clinical trials, as any other approved vaccine would have (in a more efficient manner).
  • After two doses, they are expected to be 94-95% effective.

About the process:

Due to the unprecedented, international demand for a COVID-19 vaccine, health organizations, governments, and pharmaceutical companies around the world have prioritized the creation of a safe and effective COVID vaccine. On September 16, 2020, Canada’s Minister of Health signed an Interim Order Respecting the Importation, Sale and Advertising of Drugs for Use in Relation to COVID-19. The Order allows Health Canada and other health regulators to analyze vaccine data on a rolling basis as it became available. It introduces temporary rules to speed up the approval of importing, selling and advertising COVID-19-related drugs without risk to patient safety, and opens up new pathways to the standard regulatory review process.

This doesn’t mean steps were skipped in the approval process. Instead, Health Canada made this process more efficient. The Order has led to extreme focus and added attention to detail to the processes.

Health Canada and the Minister of Health authorized both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines under the Interim Order.

Variants of Concern (VOCs)

What is a variant?

All viruses, including the one that causes COVID-19, are always mutating into new versions. These new versions are called variants. It’s important to remember that coronaviruses mutate all the time. And, the more they spread, the more mutations can happen. That is why simply reducing transmission is the key to reducing new variants. These tiny genetic mutations happen as the virus makes new copies of itself to spread and thrive. There are now many thousands of variants of the pandemic virus circulating at this time, but several, including variants first found in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil, are highly transmissible and have sparked concerns as cases have appeared in Canada.

When a virus replicates or makes copies of itself, it sometimes changes a little bit. These changes are called “mutations.” A virus with one or several new mutations is referred to as a “variant” of the original virus. The more viruses circulate, the more they may change. These changes can occasionally result in a virus variant that is better adapted to its environment compared to the original virus.  Some mutations can lead to changes in a virus’ characteristics, such as altered transmission (for example, it may spread more easily) or severity (for example, it may cause more severe disease).

What variant is in our area? 

We have confirmation that the Variant of Concern originating from South Africa (also known as 501.V2 or B.1.351) has been found in the Health Unit district.

Does the variant make you more sick or does it transmit more easily than COVID-19? 

There is no evidence that any variant (including the variant originating from South Africa) causes more serious illness for the vast majority of people who become infected. As with the original version of the COVID-19 virus, the risk is highest for people who are elderly or have significant underlying health conditions. There are concerns though that the variants can spread more easily and vaccines may not work quite as well against it. 

Is the variant originating from South Africa more serious? 

The variant originating from South Africa is not believed to be more deadly than the initial strain, but it is known to spread more quickly than the initial strain. To try and control the spread of this variant, the government is doing additional testing in areas where cases have been found. There are concerns that as variants spread more easily, vaccines may not work quite as well against them. 

North Bay

345 Oak Street West

Parry Sound

70 Joseph Street Unit #302

Burk's Falls

17 Copeland Street (by appointment only)