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About the COVID-19 vaccines

We’re ensuring you have access to safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19.

The Government of Canada is carefully reviewing all the scientific data and evidence for the vaccines, working on distribution plans, and accelerating purchases of the vaccines.

Health Canada has evaluated, licensed and approved the following COVID-19 vaccines for use in Canada:

All approved COVID-19 vaccines have been approved by Health Canada on the basis of their quality, safety and efficacy. All the vaccines were proven to be effective at preventing COVID-19 symptoms, and preventing severe complications of COVID-19 such as hospitalization and death.

The vaccines are free with no cost to the public. The vaccines currently approved for use in Canada do not contain any animal-derived ingredients. Learn more about the authorized vaccines and their ingredients from Health Canada.

Learn more about the COVID-19 Vaccine Approval Process and Safety from the Ministry of Health.

Getting the vaccine is an additional way to protect yourself against COVID-19.

After receiving either dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, you should continue to follow all public health measures, including wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing and washing your hands.

You should also continue to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19, and get tested if you have symptoms. Learn more about how we can all continue to take care of each other, and the actions you should take to stay safe.

How the vaccines work

The COVID-19 vaccines are given by an injection into the muscle of the arm. You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine.

If you get vaccinated and are exposed to COVID-19, it's not yet known if you can still give the infection to someone that has not been immunized. That's why, even after being vaccinated, it's important to continue to follow these actions to stay safe and take care of each other.

Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are messenger RNA vaccines, often called mRNA vaccines. mRNA vaccines teach our cells to make a protein that triggers an immune response. Our cells break down and destroy the mRNA after the protein has been created.

mRNA vaccines do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19 infection, and they do not enter the part of the cell where our DNA is stored. The vaccine cannot alter your DNA in any way.

Learn more about COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.

Both AstraZeneca and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) are viral-vector-based vaccines.

Viral vector-based vaccines use a harmless virus, such as an adenovirus as a delivery system. Adenoviruses are viruses that cause the common cold. This vector virus is not the virus that causes COVID-19.

Once injected into the body, the virus contained within the vaccine produces the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein which helps the body to build a strong immune response to COVID-19 Learn more about viral vector-based vaccines.

Vaccine dosing

The Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines need 2 doses. Currently, in Ontario, the time between the first and second doses is 4 months.

Increasing the time between first and second doses allows more people to get the benefit of immunity from a first dose while the vaccine supply continues to be limited.

Research and real-world experience have shown that even with a single dose of the vaccine, there is protection from severe complications, hospitalization and death due to COVID-19. For ongoing protection, a second dose will still be necessary after 4 months.

Other information

The Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine can be given to anyone aged 16 years and older. The Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccines can be given to anyone aged 18 years and older. The AstraZeneca vaccine can be given to anyone 18 years or older.

The safety and effectiveness of the vaccines in people younger than 16 or 18 years of age has not yet been established.

If you've previously had COVID-19, you're still encouraged to get the vaccine because it's not known how long immunity lasts after being infected with the virus.

Precautions for certain groups

You should not receive a COVID-19 vaccine without consulting your health care provider if you:

  • Have a compromised immune system or an autoimmune condition.
  • Are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.
  • Are breastfeeding.
  • Are under 16 years.

There's limited information about the use of COVID-19 vaccines in these groups because they were not included in the clinical trials. Information may continue to evolve as further evidence becomes available.

Additional precautions are required in some cases. Consult your health care provider before getting vaccinated if you have:

  • Experienced a serious allergic reaction (including anaphylaxis) to another vaccine, drug, or food.
  • A bleeding disorder.

Do not get the vaccine in the following situations:

  • If you're allergic to any component of the vaccine.
  • If you had an allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine.

Wait to get the vaccine if you're sick, have COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19, or have received other vaccinations in the past 2 weeks.

Like all vaccines, some people may experience side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine. These side effects will likely be mild to moderate and resolve after a few days. They include pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, chills and fever. Some of these side effects are part of the body’s response to developing immunity.

Serious side effects after receiving the vaccine are rare. If you develop any serious symptoms or symptoms that could be an allergic reaction, seek medical attention right away.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction include:

  • Hives (bumps on the skin that are often very itchy)
  • Swelling of the face, tongue, or throat
  • Difficulty breathing

If you experience a severe allergic reaction, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital.

It's important to follow up with your health care provider if you experience serious side effects. Health care providers can find information on reporting an adverse event on the Health Professionals page.