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Vaccinations for youth 12+ and adults

It is important for everyone to stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations.

Staying up to date means you have received your primary series and have received at least one COVID-19 booster dose (original or bivalent) on or after September 1, 2022. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) and the province of Ontario are currently reviewing if/when future booster doses would be recommended and for whom.

The interval between doses depends on the vaccine you receive, your age, your health status and if you recently had a COVID-19 infection.

If you have not received a COVID-19 booster dose on or after September 1, 2022, it is recommended that you receive it now to provide protection from severe illness, long term COVID-19 symptoms, and hospitalization.

Individuals aged 18+ are eligible for both Health Canada approved Pfizer bivalent vaccine and the Moderna bivalent vaccine. Both bivalent vaccines provide better protection against the most recently circulating COVID-19 variants in Ontario.

Youth aged 12 to 17 are eligible for the Health Canada approved Pfizer bivalent vaccine, if they have completed their primary COVID-19 vaccine series (first two doses).

Boosters are available across Simcoe Muskoka at health unit office locations (appointment only), at community clinics (walk-in and appointment) and pop-up clinics, GO-VAXX mobile clinics,  pharmacies, and some primary care providers.

If you or a family member are at increased risk for severe illness, it is important that you and everyone around you use as many layers of protection to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Getting your booster will:

  • Provide good protection from infection and the risk of having long-term symptoms (Long COVID) if you do get COVID-19.
  • Provide very good protection from getting seriously sick and being hospitalized, especially for those who are more vulnerable.
  • Help stop the virus from spreading.
  • Protect our health care system from being overwhelmed.


After a COVID-19 infection wait at least three months (84 days) before getting a booster dose; however, waiting six months (168 days) may provide a better immune response.

Once you have met the Health Canada criteria for an approved primary vaccine series, you will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 booster dose.

If a booster is needed, does that mean that vaccines don’t work?
Although some protection from serious illness and hospitalization remains after receiving a primary series of COVID-19 vaccine, protection does wane over time and so boosters are needed to increase immunity from infection (and long COVID), and to provide even more protection from serious illness, hospitalization and death.

Why are boosters recommended?
The protection you get from COVID-19 vaccines and from having a previous COVID-19 infection decreases over time. In addition to decreasing immunity, the spread of highly contagious variants increases the need for additional protection against COVID-19.

What are the factors that may decrease the effectiveness of the vaccine?

  • Older people and those who are immunocompromised can have a lower immune response from their primary vaccination doses.
  • A shorted interval between doses can decrease how long immunity stays high.
  • mRNA vaccines produce a stronger immune response giving better protection compared to other types of vaccines.
  • The currently spreading variants of COVID-19 are even more contagious and can cause infection and reinfection even after vaccination or previous COVID-19 illness.

As recommend by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), mRNA vaccines can be used interchangeably, and individuals are encouraged to get whichever vaccine is available at the time of vaccination. This is because both mRNA vaccines protect against the Omicron variant, and waiting for a preferred vaccine could put a person and their family’s health at risk. Moderna Spikevax (100 mcg) induces somewhat higher antibody levels compared to Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty (30 mcg). Protection against infection and severe disease from a primary series (dose one and two) with Moderna Spikevax (100 mcg) may be more durable than Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty (30 mcg).

Combining vaccines from different manufacturers is not a new concept. This occurs when vaccine supply or public health programs change. Different vaccine products have been used to complete a vaccine series for influenza, hepatitis A and others.

For people under the age of 30, the Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty vaccine will continue to be offered based on the NACI recommendation for Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty for this age group to further minimize the rare risk of adolescents and young adults experiencing myocarditis and/or pericarditis.

Ready to get boosted?

Getting a First and Second Dose (primary series)

Only vaccines that Health Canada has approved are being used in Ontario.

Health Canada has one of the most careful vaccine review systems in the world. A vaccine is only approved if it is safe, it works, it meets manufacturing standards, and the benefits of being vaccinated outweigh the risks of getting the disease. Canada’s best independent scientists reviewed all the data before approving the COVID-19 vaccines for Canadians. For more information see Health Canada’s vaccine development and approval infographic.

What about side effects?

Like other medications and vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines can cause side effects, but they are usually short-lived and mild.  

Side effects are the result of your immune system building protection. Once your immune system has been primed with the first dose there is a much stronger immune response to the second dose. This is a good thing and is also the reason why side effects are more likely to happen after a second dose of the vaccine.

None of the approved vaccines contain the actual COVID-19 virus, so you can't get COVID-19 from the vaccine.

The most common side effects are soreness at the injection site on your arm, tiredness, chills and/or a mild headache as the vaccine starts to work.

Serious side effects are rare. If they do happen they are usually felt minutes to hours after receiving the vaccine. Seek immediate medical attention or call 9-1-1 if you experience any of the following within three days of immunization:

  • hives
  • swelling of the face, mouth, or throat
  • trouble breathing
  • very pale colour and serious drowsiness
  • high fever (over 40C)
  • convulsions or seizures
  • other serious symptoms (e.g., “pins and needles” or numbness)

Still have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine?

Speak with your health care provider.  The province’s website has more information about vaccine safety and the COVID-19 vaccine approval process. Public Health Ontario is responsible for gathering and publicly reporting information about adverse events following immunization which can be found here.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine remains the best defence against COVID-19 as it reduces the risk of infection, long-term complications (long COVID), and the risk of getting seriously sick or being hospitalized due to COVID-19 infection

Hospitalization and death

To understand the impact and important protection that COVID-19 vaccines have provided to people we can look at Ontario hospitalization and death outcomes by vaccination status.  

A report highlights the following (see link to report below):

  • Since vaccines have been available, unvaccinated people of all ages were more likely to be hospitalized compared to people of the same age who completed a primary vaccine series, and those who have had a primary series and a booster.

Although your body would have developed immunity from having a COVID-19 infection, we have learned that this immunity also wanes over time. Even if you have already had a COVID-19 infection, getting vaccinated can help enhance your immune response that can protect you from getting sick again. Staying up to date with all recommended doses of vaccine, including boosters is important.

After a COVID-19 infection wait at least three months (84 days) before getting a booster dose; however, waiting six months (168 days) may provide a better immune response.

For youth 12 to 17 

  • Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty Bivalent - recommended for ages 12+ (six months after last COVID-19 vaccine dose).
  • Pfizer- BioNTech Comirnaty - recommended for ages 12 to 17 to minimize myocarditis risk (two doses with eight weeks in between).
  • Moderna Spikevax - with informed consent.

For adults 18+

  • ​Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty Bivalent - recommended for ages 12+ (six months after last COVID-19 vaccine dose).
  • Moderna Bivalent - recommended for ages 18+ (six months after last COVID-19 vaccine dose).
  • Pfizer BioNTech Comirnaty - recommended for ages 12 to 29 to minimize myocarditis risk (two doses with eight weeks in between).
  • Moderna Spikevax - recommended for ages 29 and over (two doses with eight weeks in between)

For adults 18+:

  • UPDATED: Novavax Nuvaxovid - two doses with eight weeks in between for primary series. One dose as a booster given six months after second dose.
  • Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) - one dose only (only available when no other vaccines can be used)

If you belong to a special patient group, make sure you receive education/counselling about getting vaccinated from a health care provider prior to getting vaccinated.

Upon request, or if you have an allergy to mRNA vaccines (like Pfizer or Moderna), or you do not want to receive an mRNA vaccine you can get the Novavax vaccine.

Due to limited supply and vaccine logistics, these vaccines are a special order and you will be required to travel to a central location to receive the vaccine.

  • You must request any of the above vaccines through the health unit. Please use the online form to request to be put on a list to receive one of the above listed vaccines.
  • The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that a booster dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine should be offered six months after completion of a primary series of Novavax or Janssen. If you have an allergy to an mRNA vaccine, speak with your health care provider about appropriate next steps for a booster dose.
Ready to get vaccinated?

People 12+ Who Are Immunocompromised (three-dose primary series)

For individuals who are moderately or severely immunocompromised, a three-dose primary series is recommended. A third dose is recommended because people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised:

  • get less immunity protection from two doses compared to those who are healthy, and
  • are at greater risk of getting seriously sick if they get COVID-19.

In addition to a three-dose extended primary series, a fourth dose is also recommended for eligible immunocompromised individuals 12+, including those who are not receiving treatment at this time. Those who received their fourth dose are eligible for a fifth dose five months after their fourth dose.

Immunocompromised individuals 12+ who are eligible for an extended three-dose primary series and a fourth (booster) dose include those who are:

  • receiving dialysis (hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis)
  • receiving active treatment (e.g., chemotherapy, targeted therapies, immunotherapy) for solid tumour or hematologic malignancies
  • recipients of solid-organ transplant and taking immunosuppressive therapy
  • recipients of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T-cell therapy or hematopoietic stem cell transplant (within 2 years of transplantation or taking immunosuppression therapy)
  • diagnosed with moderate to severe primary immunodeficiency (e.g., DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
  • diagnosed with stage 3 or advanced untreated HIV infection and those with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome
  • receiving active treatment with the specific immunosuppressive therapies.

An extended three-dose primary series is also recommended for immunocompromised children five to 11 years of age.

Ready to get vaccinated?


VaxFacts - Scarborough Health Network has qualified doctors who understand you may have questions or concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines. They are ready to listen and talk with you in a one-to-one by appointment phone call. The call is a judgement-free conversation in a safe space to give you the facts that will help you make an informed decision. Visit their website for more information or to book your appointment.

 Boost Your Protection Against COVID-19 (Fact Sheet) (ENG/FR) 

Fact Sheet: Get Vaccinated (Ukrainian)

Key Messages: Get Vaccinated (Ukrainian) - included messages are available in text and image format

Fact Sheet: Get Boosted

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Fact Sheet: Questions about COVID-19 vaccines? Here are some answers (ENG / FR)

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For additional information and resources on COVID-19 vaccines, visit:

  • Black Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity

Dr. Zainab Abdurrahman Answers Questions on Vaccines & Side Effects Facebook video

Dr. Onye Nnorom’s thoughts on the vaccine  – YouTube video

Page last modified: March 6, 2023

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