Why is immunization important?
Immunization is a personal choice; however, it will help us protect one another. Immunization will help protect the Elders, family members, friends, loved ones and the community. It is essential for protecting those who are at high risk for severe complications such as:
- Elders and older adults
- Residential and staff long-term care, designated supportive living and seniors’ lodges
- Persons with underlying health conditions
Resource: “Smudge Campaign” Link
Why was the Indigenous Population prioritized for COVID-19 vaccines?
First Nation, Métis and Inuit members have been prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccines due to higher risks of contracting and being severely affected by COVID. The following factors were taken into consideration when prioritizing Indigenous Populations:
- Booster dose prioritization for adults from indigenous communities was considered as they were offered COVID-19 vaccines much earlier than the rest of the population. This may increase the risk of waning protection because a large gap has passed since their second dose and because several members were vaccinated with short interval between doses.
- Nationally, Indigenous communities suffered more due to the rise of COVID-19 cases because the cases started to rise in First Nations communities in August 2021 at a rate that was 4.2 times higher than the general population.
- Canadians who identify as Indigenous and those who exhibit at least one underlying medical condition may experience more severe COVID-19 outcomes. Therefore, the Indigenous population is at a higher risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes as compared to the general population. The greater risk of severe outcomes renders Indigenous communities as the most suitable candidate for third doses and booster doses in order to reduce and prevent the continuous sufferings associated with COVID-19.
- In Indigenous communities the risk of infection is higher because it is difficult to maintain social distancing due to overcrowded settings. Additionally, there are challenges with other preventative measures so individuals may not be best protected from the exposure to COVID-19.
- Remote and isolated communities lack readily available resources to assist them in the prevention of COVID-19 due to blockages in healthcare services. This increases their risk to severe outcomes and ultimately results in death and societal disruption within the community and its members.
What are the most common side effects of the COVID-19 Vaccines?
Minor side effects after vaccinations are normal because it is the body’s natural way of responding to the vaccine. However, common side effects of COVID-19 can range from hours to a few days, and they include:
- Pain at the injection side
Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe to take?
- Vaccines are safe to take because only the ones that are scientifically proven safe, effective and high quality are authorized for use in Canada. The COVID-19 vaccines have undergone a series of testing, clinical trials and assessments during their development followed by Health Canada’s revision before authorization.
Does the COVID-19 vaccine effect fertility?
There is no scientific evidence that suggests that there is any correlation between fertility issues and vaccinations. To date, there is no such evidence or research that supports that claim that COVID-19 vaccines can affect fertility. Moreover, there is no association between COVID-19 vaccination and menstrual irregularities.
Where can I get the COVID-19 Vaccine?
First Nations living off reserve, Inuit and Métis will receive the COVID-19 vaccines through their provincial or territorial health services. You can visit your provincial or territorial website to find out more information about how to book an appointment and local vaccination clinics.
Where can I find my vaccination receipt?
Vaccination receipts will be provided with at the time of your vaccination from an Ontario vaccine clinic during your appointment or by an Indigenous Health Provider during your appointment. As proof of vaccination, you can show a paper copy of your vaccination receipt or a digital copy. Receipts must include your name, date of vaccination and product (brand of vaccine) at the time of vaccination. You may be required to confirm that the vaccine receipt is yours by showing identification issues by an institution or public body that includes your name and date of birth. As of Monday October 18, the enhanced vaccine certificates with scannable QR codes are available for all vaccinated Ontarians to download, however both electronic and paper versions of the vaccine receipts are and will continue to remain valid until further changes.
How do I know which COVID-19 vaccine information sources are accurate?
It can be difficult to determine the authenticity of sources due to the increase in excessive information available on social media and different outlets. However, in order to verify a credible source, you can check the source of the information and whether it is updated regularly. Information updated and posted by your primary care givers, local health units and community organizations can be relied on to receive information about COVID-19.
Factors to consider for verifying the authenticity of the sources are as follows:
- Who are the authors? Can you trust them? Can they be contacted?
- Has the site been developed by a reputable organization?
- Does the information seem reasonable?
- Who can be contacted for more information?
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for breastfeeding or pregnant women?
COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, planning on pregnancy, or who might become pregnant soon. Pregnant and recently pregnant people are at a higher risk of severe illness from COID-19 compared with non-pregnant people. Severe illness can require hospitalization, intensive care, ventilation, difficulty breathing or illness that results in death. There are numerous of benefits of getting the vaccine during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Infact, data suggests that receiving an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy reduces the risk for infection. It is also safe for pregnant woman and those who were recently pregnant to safely receive booster shots as well. Moreover, vaccination builds antibodies that help protect the baby against COVID-19. If hesitation about getting a vaccine persists, you can contact your health care provider to discuss your decision about vaccination.
How safe are the vaccines if they were developed so quickly?
Although COVID-19 vaccines were developed rapidly, all steps were taken to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. A series of steps were involved before the vaccine was released to the public, such as:
- Approach development: Scientists have been involved in developing vaccines to combat viruses such as COVID-19.
- Clinical Trials: Vaccines undergo three phases of clinical trials to ensure the safety and effectiveness of its use.
- Authorization or Approval: before vaccines were available to the public, findings from the clinical trials were carefully assessed. After the vaccines aligned with the safety and effectiveness standards, they were granted permission to be used. After the release of the vaccine, there is a COVID-19 vaccine safety monitoring system in place to track the safety of the vaccine.
Why does my child need to get vaccinated against COVID-19?
On May 5th, Health Canada authorized the use of Pfizer vaccines for children who are as young as 12. Even if children are young and healthy, vaccination should be used as a preventative measure to help protect them from the exposure to COVID-19 and the Delta Variant. Although COVID-19 can have less severe outcomes for children compared to adults, it can make them sick, require hospitalization and some deaths may also occur. Vaccinating your child will help protect family members and loved ones who may be at a higher risk of severe outcomes if infected with COVID-19.
What should I do if I did not get my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine within the recommended time frame?
The appointment for second doses should be generally after 8 weeks. However, if there has been a delay the appointment needs to be booked as soon as possible.
How will the vaccine help protect us from COVID-19?
The COVID-19 vaccine helps build immunity to the virus, so that our body can fight it off more easily. The vaccine reduces the risk of getting sick from COVID-19 or in the case that you do get infected, the side effects will be milder. In order to get the full protection against the virus, it is essential to complete the full 2-doses vaccine series. The importance of the COVID-19 vaccine is that it aids in the long-term protection against COVID-19. According to results from a recent testing, the vaccine was 95% effective in protecting 16 years old and 100% effective in protecting 12-15 years old.
Can I get the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time?
Yes, the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine can be administered simultaneously or with close intervals just like other common vaccines such as influenza or HPV are administered.
If I already underwent COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated?
It is recommended to get vaccinated even in the case that you have fully recovered from COVID-19 after being infected.
Do both COVID-19 vaccine doses need to be of the same brand or is it okay to receive different ones?
A different COVID-19 vaccine may be offered for your second dose. This is known as a mixed vaccine schedule.
Is the vaccine recommended for those who are immunocompromised or have an autoimmune disorder?
For those who are severely immunocompromised due to disease or treatment, they may have a lower immune response to COVId-19 vaccination, therefore it is recommended that they get a booster shot or third dose following their 2-dose vaccine series.
Will the vaccines alter my DNA?
The vaccines will not alter the DNA in any way. MRNA and viral vector vaccines instruct our cells to start building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19, however these instructions do not interact with our DNA.
What are the different recommendations for children’s vaccines as compared to adults?
Children will be receiving the pediatric Pfizer vaccine, which is lower in dosage compared to youth and adults. This formulation is different because it has one-third of the amount given to individuals 12 and older, in a two-dose series at a recommended interval of eight weeks. It is common for pediatric vaccine doses to be lower than those for adults because the immune response is robust in children. According to Health Canada, lower-dose pediatric vaccines are just as protective for adults than they are for children.
Can children with food allergies get vaccinated?
Allergic reactions are rare and if they do occur it would be between 15 and 30 minutes after vaccination. During the vaccine appointment, your child will be monitored for any reactions to the vaccine. If there is a history of serious allergic reactions, the vaccinator should be notified. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can include the following:
- Hives (itchy bumps on the skin)
- Swelling of the face, tongue or throat
- Difficulty breathing
If any of the above occurs, call emergency services immediately.
Do children experience different side effects compared to adults?
According to the Pfizer Study, there were no serious adverse events reported for children. Some children might experience mild symptoms, while others can get sicker and require hospitalization/or ICU admission and they may also experience more longer lasting symptoms, however the most common symptoms are as follows:
- Sore arm near the injection site
- Feeling more tired than usual
- Achy muscles or joints
Where can I report COVID-19 vaccine side effects?
Patients are asked to stay at the vaccination clinic for at least 15 minutes after vaccinations so they can detect any adverse reactions and treat them as soon as possible. Signs and symptoms after vaccination can include:
- Itchy rash
- Swelling of the: lips, face, airway and tongue
- Increased heart rate
- Loss of consciousness
- Sudden low blood pressure
- Abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea
- Sneezing, coughing and difficulty breathing
If any of the above symptoms are experienced after leaving the vaccination site, report it to your health care provider immediately. Call emergency services as soon as possible of you develop any serious symptoms that could possibly be an allergic reaction to the vaccine.
What is a booster dose and what is a third dose?
A booster dose is recommended for someone who has completed first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine series to restore the full protection of the vaccine that may be decreased over time due to waning immunity.
A third dose is recommended for those who are severely or moderately immunocompromised, which may have prevented them from developing a strong response to the two doses. Expanding the vaccine series to three doses will boost the immune response to COVID-19.
What are the long-term side effects of the COVID-10 vaccine for children?
The benefits of getting the vaccine outweigh the risks of any side effects. COVID-19 symptoms may cause more long-lasting symptoms and harmful health problems for children. Similar to other vaccinations, children might experience mild side effects and reactions that will subside in a few days after vaccination. Common side effects may include redness and swelling on the arm where the vaccine was given, tiredness, muscle soreness headache or mild fever.
What can I do if my child experiences side effects after getting the vaccine?
Applying a cool damp cloth where the vaccine was given may health with the soreness and swelling of the arm. If need be, please speak with your health-care provider about giving your child over-the counter pain or fever medications. Doing the above may help with mild side effects such as headache, muscle pain and fever.
What will the vaccination experience feel like for my child?
Vaccination sites will accommodate the vaccine sites to ensure that they are adhering to a child-friendly and welcoming environment. Sites will be offering sensory toys for the children, and they will ensure that the clinics are bright with little noise, so the children feel comfortable. Privacy like cubicles and family pods may be offered so that the parent and child remain while the child receives the vaccine. Additionally, public health units will be offering vaccinations through various channels such as schools to facilitate access and ease.
Why should I worry about the Omicron variant?
- Omicron cases are doubling every two days. As of December 9th, 2021, the Omicron variant represents 10% of all new COVID-19 infections in Ontario It is expected to become the dominant strain in Ontario over the next few weeks.
- This variant has many mutations. According to Preliminary evidence, there is an increased risk of infection with this variant as compared to other VOCs.
If I am fully vaccinated, am I protected from Omicron?
- According to Evidence, 2 doses of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine does not decrease transmission and there is a need for third doses shots to receive protection against the variant.
- A third dose of COVID-19 vaccine will boost waning immunity after a second dose. Blood samples from those vaccinated with booster doses indicates 25 times higher levels of neutralizing antibodies against omicron compared to people with just two doses.
- Source: https://time.com/6126612/omicron-pfizer-booster/
Is Omicron more dangerous than the original COVID-19 infection?
- The Omicron variant is more likely to spread more easily than the original COVID-19 virus. Anyone who is diagnosed with Omicron can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or asymptomatic.
- Source: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/omicron-variant.html
Why is it important to get a booster shot to fight against Omicron?
- There is a likelihood that breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to occur. Therefore, the recent emergence of Omicron emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters.
- Source: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/omicron-variant.html
How can we prevent Omicron?
- Implement vaccinations as the best public health measure to protect people from the original COVID-19 virus and its VOCs. Vaccines help with the slow transmission and reduce the likelihood of new variants growing.
- Continue the use of masks because they offer protection against all variants. It is recommended to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high community transmission, regardless of your vaccination status.
- Testing and assessment can be implemented to verify one’s infection status. For precautionary measures, it is safe to perform tests so that you can self-isolate yourself and help address preventative measures before they become worse in the case that someone has tested positive.
- Source: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/omicron-variant.html
Why am I being contacted?
You are contacted by your local public health unit if you are exposed to COVID-19 or if you have tested positive for COVID-19. Contact tracers are calling to investigate and identify individuals who you encountered so they can determine who the virus has potentially been spread to.
Who is calling me and how did they get my contact information?
- Contact tracers or case investigators may call you from your local public health unit, the Ontario Ministry of Health or Statistics Canada who is supporting the contact tracing initiative on behalf of PHO.
- Contact information, such as home and telephone number is received from your local public health unit.
How do I know this call is not spam?
You will be able to verify the caller ID because PUBLIC HEALTH will appear, and the toll-free number 1-833-615-2103 will also be displayed. The contact tracer or case investigator will inform you that they are calling from Public Health Ontario. They will not ask you for personal information, such as: financial information or credit number.
Public Health Ontario instructed that I get a COVID-19 test during my self-isolation period. Should I take public transit to the testing center?
- No, public transportation or ride sharing should not be taken because you are in self-isolation. You may walk, cycle or use a private vehicle. If need be, you may ask someone to drive or use a taxi. It should be noted that during the car rides, yourself and the driver included should be masked at all times. If possible, the window should be kept open. In the case that you are unable to visit an assessment center for testing, you can contact your local public health unit for assistance.
- Source: https://www.publichealthontario.ca/en/diseases-and-conditions/infectious-diseases/respiratory-diseases/novel-coronavirus/contact-tracing-initiative