COVID-19 has changed life as we know it.
For many of us, it has been challenging understanding where to go for resources, what information to trust, and what we can do to protect ourselves and our loved ones. You are not alone. We hope that this page provides you with the tools to navigate COVID-19 and vaccination as we move towards a new normal, together.
Frequently Asked Questions
Navigating information on vaccination can be challenging. There’s a lot of information out there, which is why we have compiled some of the most frequently asked questions and answers from trusted sources.
Registering for an Appointment
Q: How do I get vaccinated?
A: First, check whether you are eligible here.
Then, you can get vaccinated by either booking an appointment or going to a pop-up vaccine clinic. Note that the eligibility at certain pop-up clinics might vary, so make sure to look carefully at the age, race, and risk factors the pop-up clinics are focused on.
For more information on available bookings, go to this Ontario government website.
To get updates on available pop-up vaccine clinics, you can follow Vaccine Hunters on Twitter.
How Vaccines Work
Q: How does the vaccine work?
A: The vaccine tells our immune system to make antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that identify specific viruses so they can be cleared from our bodies. The antibodies help to protect us from getting sick if we are exposed to COVID-19. You cannot catch COVID-19 by getting the vaccine.
Q: Will I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?
A: The vaccines are not “live” – this means they do not have any active virus in them, so they cannot cause COVID-19.
Q: Will the vaccine change my DNA?
A: No. The vaccine does not change your DNA and cannot access where your DNA is stored in your cells. Vaccines work with your body’s natural defences to build protection. They teach your body how to recognize and fight the virus.
How Vaccines Were Made
Q: It usually takes 10 years for vaccines to be created and tested, why did this one only take 6 months?
A: mRNA technology used for the vaccine has been in development for over 10 years and has been used in other medical treatments like cancer. This combined with global funding and collaborations between governments and researchers allowed for the vaccine to be created much faster.
Q: Were Black people specifically in the trials for the vaccine?
A: Pfizer and Moderna trials had 30,000 – 40,000 participants, while typically vaccines have a test population of 6,000 people. Black participants were 9.3% of the population in the study. Both vaccines had 20% people of colour and other minorities in their studies.
Q: Is the vaccine safe?
A: Yes. The vaccine has been tested for safety, and Health Canada has approved it for use in Canada. The vaccine is safe for people with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and asthma.
Q: Has the vaccine been approved by Health Canada?
A: In order to be used in Canada, all drugs, including vaccines, must meet the regulatory requirements for safety, efficacy and quality. Usually this review process can take a long time because new drugs and vaccines get added to the bottom of the list, and must wait their turn for review. However, these vaccines are so important that they went right to the front of the line, allowing the process to be much quicker than usual.
Q: Why should I get the vaccine?
A: The vaccine does not prevent you from getting COVID-19, but it protects you from severe illness, hospitalization and death if you do get COVID-19.
Q: Why are we encouraging our communities to get vaccinated?
A: When a large percentage of the population gets vaccinated, the spread of the virus (SARS-CoV-2) will slow down or stop. You can protect yourself, your loved ones and your community by getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Q: Are there any side effects?
A: The studies that were done show good results, with few serious side effects. Most side effects happen between 2 – 3 days after getting the vaccine and up to 6 weeks after. When the studies were done, they checked people for up to 2 months after they got their vaccines.
The vaccine can cause pain or redness at the injection site, headache, fever, and muscle aches, but this doesn’t mean you will get any or all of these side effects. Most side effects will go away in a few days. A nurse will monitor you for any reactions for 15 – 30 minutes after you get vaccinated.
Q: Are there any long-term side effects?
A: Health Canada has a system to monitor any identified side effects and takes any presenting side effects very seriously. Up to this point, no long-term side effects have been identified. If a new side effect does come up, it will be very rare and should not cause too much worry.
Q: How long after contracting COVID-19 is it safe to get vaccinated?
A: People who are sick with COVID-19 should wait until they have recovered from acute illness and public health has told them they no longer need to self-isolate. It is important that you wait the full isolation period before getting the vaccine so that you do not expose people at your vaccination clinic to the virus.
Q: I had COVID-19 but now I am feeling better. Should I still get vaccinated?
A: If you had COVID-19 you should still get the vaccine once you have recovered. This is because you may not be immune to the virus that causes COVID-19 and you could get infected again. You do not need to get a COVID-19 antibody test before getting your vaccine.
Allergies or Immunocompromised
Q: I have allergies. Can I get the vaccine?
A: The COVID-19 vaccine does not contain eggs, gelatin, preservatives or antibiotics. The nurse will review the list of vaccine ingredients with you to make sure it is safe for you before you are vaccinated. If you have severe allergies, speak to a medical professional before getting your vaccine.
Q: Is it safe for me to get a COVID-19 vaccine if I am immunocompromised from treatment or illness? What if I have an autoimmune disease?
A: Nearly everyone will be able to safely receive the vaccine, although a very small number of people may need to avoid vaccination due to severe allergies. Vaccine manufacturers identify a number of precautions because these populations were not included in the original vaccine trials. In the context of the ongoing risk of COVID-19, most individuals can be offered vaccination. If you have questions and have a weak immune system or autoimmune disease, please speak to your healthcare provider about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Q: Do people who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding have safety concerns with the vaccine?
A: The Canadian Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology (SOGC), the National Advisory Committee on Immunization and public health experts in B.C. all advise that pregnant and breastfeeding women can be offered the vaccine. If you have questions and you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or are breastfeeding, speak to your health care provider about COVID-19 vaccines.
Q: Do these vaccines work for people over the age of 65?
A: Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations showed similar protection in people over 65 years of age as they did in younger people: Pfizer provided 95% immunity, while Moderna had 86% immunity for patients over 65.
Q: I’m not vaccinated but my family member/friend is, can we spend time together? Once I’m vaccinated, do I still have to worry about public health measures like wearing a mask and social distancing?
A: Yes. While the vaccines protect your family members or friends from becoming very ill if they get COVID-19, there is a small chance you can still get COVID-19 from them and then give it to others. After you get a vaccine, it will still be extremely important to continue to practice all the preventive measures that have been recommended, including washing your hands, maintaining a safe physical distance, wearing a mask, and staying home when sick.
Q: How long will I be protected after receiving the vaccine?
A: At this time, we do not know how long you will be protected after a vaccine. Right now, we know that the Pfizer vaccine offers protection for at least 6 months.
What You Can Do
We all play an important part in moving towards a new normal that is better for ourselves, our families, and our Black communities.
Here’s what you can do:
Community Response to COVID
Community organizations have been advocating on behalf of our Black communities and have been increasing access to vaccination.
Vaccine Town Halls
The Black Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity led a series of town halls for community members, answering key questions and addressing misconceptions about vaccination. Recordings for these townhalls can be found on their Facebook page.
Black-Led Vaccine Clinics
The Black Health Vaccine Initiative, a collaboration between the Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario (BPAO) and a number of other local Black healthcare organizations, is running pop-up clinics for Black community members in Toronto. Learn more about these clinics here.
Upcoming Black-Led Vaccine Clinics
Stay tuned for updates!
If you develop symptoms of the 2019 novel coronavirus, call Telehealth Ontario for medical advice: 1-866-797-0000
Toronto Public Health
Call if you have questions about COVID-19: 416-338-7600
Translation is available in multiple languages
Testing Locations in Ontario
Find your closest Ontario testing location here.