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. 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 1-844-478-1400.

On This Page (click to view):

About the Vaccine

What is the COVID-19 vaccine?

A vaccine is a medicine that gets your immune system to produce antibodies. Antibodies are proteins trained to recognize the virus and protect your immune system against it. They can be produced after getting vaccinated, but also by being infected with the virus. After getting vaccinated for COVID-19, you develop some immunity to the virus, without having to get COVID-19 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 four COVID-19 vaccines for use in Canada:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Moderna
  • AstraZeneca - at this time, AstraZeneca is not offered at our vaccine clinics; however, it is available at certain pharmacies.
  • Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) - at this time, we are not aware if and when the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be available in our district.

Which vaccine will I receive? Will it be the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson?

  • Currently, clinics in our region are offering Pfizer and Moderna. It is likely you will not know which one you are receiving until you arrive at your appointment.
  • AstraZeneca is available at certain pharmacies in the Health Unit District for individuals 40 years of age and older. To book an appointment for the AstraZeneca vaccine, contact the pharmacy directly.
  • At this time, we are not aware whether the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will become available in our region.

What are the differences between the four vaccines?

The four vaccines approved in Canada are similar in many ways and they are all highly effective in protecting against COVID-19. Here is a chart comparing the four vaccines: 

(Johnson & Johnson)
Type of Vaccine mRNA mRNA Non replicating viral vector Non replicating viral vector
Number of Doses 2 doses, 3 weeks apart
(up to 16 weeks)
2 doses, 4 weeks apart
(up to 16 weeks) 
2 doses, 4 weeks
to 12 weeks apart 
 1 dose
Efficacy  95%  94%  64%  66%

What is an mRNA vaccine and how does it work?

MRNA stands for Messenger Ribonucleic Acid. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines. These vaccines teach your body to make a piece of a protein from the COVID-19 virus using instructions from the virus, called mRNA.

The instructions tell cells in your body how to make part of a harmless protein from the virus. Once the cells make the protein, the instructions are broken down. The cells display the pieces of protein they have created on the outside of your cell and your body recognizes that protein as foreign and develops an immune response. This response will recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if you are exposed later on. mRNA vaccines do not change or affect your own DNA.

What is a viral vector-based vaccine and how does it work?

The AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines that Health Canada approved are viral vector-based. These vaccines use genetically modified viruses (vectors) that are harmless to humans. Viral vector-based vaccines have been used to develop:

  • many vaccines for animals
  • an Ebola vaccine approved by a number of international regulators

Here’s how they work:

These vaccines introduce instructions from the virus that causes COVID-19 using a non-COVID-19 virus that has been modified to be inactive and harmless. This is known as a vector. The vector only carries the instructions to make a specific protein from the COVID-19 virus. Similar to the mRNA virus, once the body creates that protein, it produces an immune response, which will recognize and fight future infections.

Will other COVID-19 vaccines become available?

The government of Canada has agreements for other potential vaccines that are in development or undergoing trials, so different vaccines may become available later.

 Vaccine Effectiveness

Are the current vaccines used in Canada effective against the Variants of Concern?

Current COVID-19 vaccines were designed around earlier versions of coronavirus, but scientists believe they should still work against the new ones. It is extremely unlikely the mutations would render vaccines useless.

The leading vaccine manufacturers are monitoring how well their vaccines control these new variants and are ready to tweak the vaccine design to ensure they will protect against these emerging variants. Moderna, for example, has stated that it will adjust the second or booster injection to more closely match the sequence of the variants. This is why it is critical that people return to get the second dose when it is their time to do so.

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

COVID-19 can be a serious illness for many people, and for some people, symptoms can last for months. The virus can even damage the heart, brain, lungs and increase the risk of long-term health problems. Even young, healthy people can feel unwell for weeks to months following the COVID-19 infection.

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.

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 that everyone - whether or not they are immunized or previously infected - continue to follow public health guidelines.

What is herd immunity?

When most of a population is immune to an infectious disease, this provides indirect protection - also known as herd immunity or 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 come across 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.

What percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity?

The percentage of the population that needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity depends on many factors such as how contagious an infection is. Usually 50% to 90% of a population needs to be immunized before infection rates start to go down. Since some variants are more contagious than others, it is difficult to determine an exact percentage at this time. This is an area of ongoing research. The more people vaccinated with two doses of vaccine the better, as it helps to create herd immunity.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine prevent you from getting COVID-19, or will it decrease the severity of the virus if I get infected?

The vaccines are very effective at preventing COVID-19 if you have the recommended two doses. At this time, it is not known if you can still get and give the infection to someone if you have been exposed to the virus after vaccination.

Getting the Vaccine

When can I get the vaccine?

Vaccine clinics are now taking place throughout the district. In order to address the high demand for vaccines, the Ontario government developed a three-phase Vaccine Distribution Implementation Plan. When you can get the vaccine depends on where you fit in the plan and the amount of local vaccine supply. Find out how the plan is taking shape locally.

When will vaccine clinics be run?

Vaccine clinics are now taking place throughout the district. The Health Unit is scheduling clinics based on vaccine availability and Ontario’s three-phased vaccination distribution plan. To find clinic dates, times, location and eligibility criteria, visit our COVID-19 vaccination page.

I have a serious health condition. When can I get vaccinated?

Ontario has placed individuals with health conditions and their caregivers in phase 2 of the COVID-19 vaccination plan. These individuals have been further broken down into three groups: highest risk, high risk and at risk. To find out what health conditions are identified in these groups, see Ontario’s Guidance for Prioritization of Phase 2 Populations for COVID-19 Vaccination.

I’m considered a Highest Risk individual. Can I get my second dose sooner?

There are very specific requirements for receiving your second dose sooner than 16 weeks after getting your first dose. You must have a letter of confirmation from your health care provider treating you for the highest-risk condition at the time of the first vaccine appointment.

  • blood bone or lymph cancers on immunocompromising therapy (chemotherapy, targeted therapies, immunotherapy)
  • organ transplant
  • stem cell transplants
The second dose will be discussed at the first vaccine appointment.

When will indigenous people get their vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccines are now available to Indigenous adults 18 years of age or older, whether or not you live in a First Nations community. To learn more about eligibility and when and where you can be vaccinated, contact:

  • For North Bay and area – the Health Unit: 1-844-478-1400.
  • For Mattawa and area – the Mattawa Hospital: 705-744-5511 ext. 2230
  • For Parry Sound and area – the Parry Sound Friendship Centre: 705-746-5970

Can my child receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

No. At this time, the Pfizer vaccine is not approved for those under 16 years old, and Moderna is not approved for those under 18 years old. It is important to note that you must be 16 (Pfizer) and 18 (Moderna) on the date of the vaccine. Clinic trials in children are underway for all vaccines. Pediatric vaccination will not occur until we can be certain that the vaccine is effective and safe for children and youth.

I’m pregnant, should I get the vaccine?

Deciding whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine while you are pregnant can be challenging. See what health care providers are saying.

Before you decide, it is important that you talk to your health care provider to weigh the benefits and risks of taking the vaccine and not taking the vaccine. If after consulting your health care provider you feel the potential benefits outweigh the potential harm, you can choose to be vaccinated and are now eligible to do so.

Should I get the vaccine if I am breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding individuals have been excluded from COVID-19 vaccine trials to date, therefore there is no current data on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines in lactating individuals, breastfed infants or the effects on milk production.

Since the COVID-19 vaccines work like other vaccines, it is likely there is not a risk to breastfeeding infants. Talk to your health care provider to see if getting the vaccine is right for you.

Who should not get the vaccine?

  • People who have allergies to the COVID-19 vaccine ingredients (talk to your doctor or health care provider to find out more);
  • People who are sick, currently have COVID-19, or have got a different vaccine in the past two weeks should wait to get vaccinated.
  • People who have had a serious allergic reaction to their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine should not receive a second dose.

Right now, the following people are not routinely being offered the COVID-19 vaccine because they were not included in the vaccine trials:

  • 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 fit in to any of these three categories and believe you would benefit from being vaccinated, talk to your doctor or health care provider.

If you are immunocompromised, have underlying health conditions, are pregnant or breastfeeding, you may still receive the vaccine, but should talk to you healthcare provider first and make sure it is right for you.

Is the vaccine mandatory?

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

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 any time after their priority grouping has been announced. For example, if a frontline health care worker in a long-term care home is prioritized to get their vaccine in phase 1 but is unsure about taking it and decides to delay, they can choose to get vaccinated at any point afterwards.

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.

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. Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca require two doses, with the second one being three to 16 weeks later. When Johnson & Johnson becomes available, it will only require one dose.

Can I just get one dose?

For maximum protection, two doses are recommended.

How long does it take after I’m vaccinated before I am protected against COVID-19?

Studies have shown that the vaccine starts to take effect approximately 14 days after the first dose, and provides even more protection seven to 14 days after the second dose. Here is a summary of estimated vaccine efficacy for vaccines currently being used in our district:

VaccineEfficacy 14 days after dose 1
and before dose 2 (95% CI)
Efficacy >7-14 days after
dose 2 (95% CI)
Pfizer Estimated 93% (69-98%) 95% (90-98%)
Moderna 92% (69-99%) 94% (89-97%)
AstraZeneca 76% (59-86%)* 67% (57-74%)

CI=confidence interval

*from day 22 up to day 90 after dose 1

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

At this time, Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines will only be administered in two doses, and when the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is available, it will require only one dose. We do not know at this point if the vaccine will need to be given every year or not.

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 it is not known 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.

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. 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 talk with your primary healthcare provider to learn if it’s safe for you to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Individuals with a history of severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine should not receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Booking Appointments

When can I make an appointment? 

Appointment booking has started in our Health Unit district and will be available to different people throughout 2021 as vaccine supply increases. As we are following the provincial Ethical Framework for COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution, populations at greatest risk have been prioritized to receive the first doses. 

Visit our COVID-19 Vaccine page to find out when you can book an appointment, or see our Appointments and Clinics page. 

Can I book an appointment for my family member or friend?

You can book a COVID-19 vaccination appointment for yourself, a family member, friend or someone whose medical care and appointments you manage, as long as you have consent to do so.

If the person you are booking for is not in one of the groups currently eligible for vaccination, please do not try to book an appointment yet.

How can I book an appointment?

Appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations can only be booked online or by phone. Individuals will not be able to book an appointment in-person at Health Unit office locations, or if they do not pass the screening for eligibility.

How to book an appointment online: 

  1. Have your Ontario health card ready.  

  2. Visit and click “Book an Appointment” to open the provincial Online Booking System. 

  3. Follow the online instructions. 

How to book an appointment by phone: 

  1. Have your Ontario health card ready. 

  2. Dial 1-844-478-1400. The Call Centre will be open to book appointments from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. Please visit the Health Unit website for additional hours.

  3. Please be patient. The Health Unit has all available staff working the phone lines in anticipation of your call. If you do not get through, call again at a later time.

What if I have a red and white Ontario health card?

If you have an old red and white health card, you will need to book by calling the Provincial Vaccine Booking Line at 1-833-943-3900.  This line is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.

What if I don't have a health card?

If you do not have a health card, you will need to book by calling the Provincial Vaccine Booking Line at 1-833-943-3900.  This line is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.

Will the system accept an expired health card?

Yes. Any health card status is accepted, unless the card is marked as lost or stolen. However, you can still book an appointment through a Call Centre agent regardless of the card’s status. 

What do I do if I receive a "Health Card is invalid" message when booking online?

Double and triple check your information to make sure it is correct. If you are still getting this message, call the Health Unit at 1-844-478-1400, or the Provincial Booking Line at 1-833-943-3900.

Can I schedule two people at the same location and time when booking online?

Unfortunately booking appointments can only be done one at a time.  However, there are many time slots available at each clinic, often making booking appointments close together possible.

Can essential caregivers receive a vaccine at the same time as their care recipient?

No. Due to initial limited supply, populations at greatest risk have been prioritized to receive the first doses. View the Health Unit’s Vaccine Strategy Playbook to learn more about the vaccine rollout.

How do I schedule my second appointment?

When you make your first appointment online or by phone, you will also be able to book your second appointment to make sure you get your second dose at the right time.

If possible, bring your receipt from the first dose to your second appointment. This will help speed up your appointment.

How do I change, cancel or rebook an appointment?

If you scheduled an appointment through the provincial online booking system, you can reschedule or cancel:
  • online – go to the confirmation email you got when you booked and follow the instructions
  • by phone - call the Provincial Vaccine Booking Line at 1-833-943-3900 (TTY 1-866-797-0007)

You will need your:

  • health card (information on front and back)
  • postal code
If you booked your appointment through the Health Unit, call 1-844-478-1400.

What if I forget or lose my appointment information?

If you scheduled a vaccination through the provincial online vaccine booking system and forget when or where your appointment is, call the Provincial Vaccine Booking Line at 1-833-943-3900 (TTY 1-866-797-0007). This line is available 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.

You will need your:

  • health card (information on the front and back)
  • postal code
If you booked your appointment through the Health Unit, call 1-844-478-1400.

Vaccine Clinics - What to Expect

What do I need to bring to my appointment?

Please bring:
  • Your Ontario health (OHIP) card (if you have one) or another piece of government-issued identification
  • Assistive or accessibility devices (if you need them)

Please wear:

  • A face covering at all times
  • A T-shirt or sleeveless top that allows easy access to your upper arm and shoulder area.

Can someone come with me to my appointment if I need help?

You are welcome to bring someone with you if necessary for reasons such has mobility or visual impairments. However, they will not be able to be vaccinated unless they have an appointment too.

Will wheelchairs be available?

Yes. Wheelchairs will be available at all COVID-19 vaccine clinics in our region.

 Will there be Wi-Fi available to access the barcode that was given to me when I booked online?

Wi-Fi will not be available at the vaccine clinics. To access your barcode, you will have to use your personal mobile data or print your barcode prior to your appointment. However, if you do not have your barcode when you arrive, clinic staff will still be able to access your information using your confirmation number or your health card.

What should I do when I arrive?

  • Do not come if you feel unwell. Stay home and reschedule your appointment if you are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to the virus.
  • Arrive 10 minutes prior to your appointment and no sooner.
  • Parking will be different at every location. Follow the signage provided.
  • Be patient.
  • Continue to follow public health measures:
    • Wear a face covering or mask covering the nose, mouth and chin.
    • Keep at least two (2) metres away from people you do not live with.
    • Wash or sanitize your hands often.

How long do I need to stay for after my vaccine?

You will be asked to wait for 15 minutes after getting the vaccine to make sure you are feeling well. Do not drive during this time.

You may be asked to wait at the clinic for up to 30 minutes if there is any concern you might have an allergic reaction.

After Your Appointments

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 receiving 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 similar side effects with your second dose.

Most medications we take have potential for side effect, however many of them help keep people alive. The risk of COVID-19 is much worse than the risk of the vaccine.

Are there any serious side effects?

Serious side effects are very rare. However, should you develop any of the following reactions within three days of receiving the vaccine, seek medical attention right away or call 911 if you are severely unwell:

  • Hives;
  • Fever over 40C or 104F;
  • Convulsions or seizures;
  • Very pale colour and serious drowsiness;
  • Swelling of mouth and throat;
  • Trouble breathing, hoarseness or wheezing;
  • Other serious symptoms (e.g., “pins and needles” or numbness).

If someone gets one or more of the side effects from the vaccine will they need to self isolate and/or get tested since they are on COVID symptom list?

Since it does take an average of two weeks for the body to respond to the vaccine, anyone who has symptoms should self-isolate. It’s possible that someone could have been exposed to the virus in the days leading up to getting the vaccine. If they are feeling unwell they should stay home, self-isolate, and arrange to be tested for COVID-19 if symptoms continue. If they have had a known exposure to a positive or probable case, then yes, they should be tested.

What are the long term side effects of the vaccine?

Manufacturers are planning to follow clinical trial participants. They must communicate any potential safety concerns to Health Canada (Health Canada, 2020). Health professionals are required to report adverse events following immunization (AEFIs) to their local Health Unit so that these reactions can be compiled by Public Health Ontario.

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. The Pfizer study examined 38,000 patients and found only 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.

Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause blood clots?

To date, studies show that a very rare risk of abnormal bleeding and clotting in women under the age of 55 can occur with the use of AstraZeneca. These events occur in one to 10 of 1 million vaccine recipients. It is important to keep this in perspective. You have a higher chance of getting blood clots from birth control or hormone replacement therapy, being pregnant, smoking or even having COVID-19.

Some countries have recently paused the use of certain vaccines (AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson). Ongoing monitoring of vaccines is taking place.

Most medications we take have the potential for side effects; however, many of them help keep people alive. The risk of COVID-19 is much worse than the risk of the vaccine.

Can I get COVID-19 from receiving the vaccine?

No, the vaccine does not cause COVID-19; however, it does take an average of two weeks for the vaccine to actually protect against COVID-19, so it’s possible someone could still get the virus after receiving the vaccine if they don’t follow public health measures.

North Bay

345 Oak Street West

Parry Sound

70 Joseph Street Unit #302

Burk's Falls

17 Copeland Street (by appointment only)