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Key things to know about COVID-19 vaccines

Making an informed choice about getting a vaccine is a very personal decision. We know there is a lot of information in the news, on social media and on the internet about COVID-19 vaccines - a lot of it is true and a lot of it is false (but could have a little truth that has been twisted). Some information is confusing and some is conflicting, and with so much of it, it can be hard to keep up, stay focused and to understand all.

The key to staying informed is to choose trustworthy and correct information, which is sometimes easier said than done. So, we have compiled just the key things you need to know about COVID-19 vaccines.  

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to prevent the spread of the virus. It also offers you the best protection from getting COVID-19 and from getting seriously sick or being hospitalized. Being vaccinated protects others in your household, at work or in the community, and is especially protective for family members or friends who are elderly or immunocompromised.

Being vaccinated (with proof of vaccination) allows you to eat at restaurants, attend indoor events such as sports, concerts, movies and the theatre, and give you access to gyms, recreational facilities and other entertainment venues.

Visit our HealthSTATS website to see vaccination rates in Simcoe Muskoka, and check out the province’s website for overall provincial vaccination numbers. 


Vaccines work by triggering your body to build antibodies that know how to fight the real virus. This helps make your symptoms milder if you get COVID-19.

When most people in a population are vaccinated, the spread of the virus will slow down or stop. This is called herd immunity. Slowing or stopping the spread of COVID-19 will also help protect you, your friends, family and others in your community, including those who can’t be vaccinated (e.g., for age or medical reasons). Here’s a bit more information about how the two types of COVID-19 vaccines that are used in Ontario work:

mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna)

  • mRNA vaccines give instructions that teach our cells how to make a protein found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus.
  • The protein (created by our body) triggers an immune response and our bodies make antibodies to fight the infection if the real COVID-19 virus enters our body in the future.
  • What you need to know about mRNA vaccines (Public Health Ontario)
  • Viral vector vaccines (AstraZeneca)

    • These vaccines use a harmless virus to carry a coronavirus gene into our body.
    • This gene triggers an immune response and our bodies produce antibodies to fight the virus that causes COVID-19.
    • The harmless virus and gene are broken down by our body, but the newly produced antibodies remain and provide protection against future COVID-19 infection.
    • What you need to know about viral vector vaccines (Public Health Ontario) 

    For more on how vaccines work, please see this short video by Immunize Canada.

    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. 

    After getting the two required doses (also known as being “fully vaccinated”), the approved COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be 64%-95% effective in preventing you from getting seriously sick from the virus. As immunity after two doses starts to wane over time, a third or booster dose helps to bring your immunity level back up to its full level of effectiveness.

    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.

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

    Some people are hesitant to get vaccinated and it’s okay to have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. The province’s website has more information about vaccine safety and the COVID-19 vaccine approval process. You can also speak with your health care provider. 

    Scarborough Health Network 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. The service is available in over 200 languages using an interpreter. Visit their website for more information or to book your appointment.

    SickKids COVID-19 Vaccine Consult Service - A team of paediatric Registered Nurses whgo will listen and answer your questions about the vaccines for children and youth. The service is a by appointment phone call that provides a safe, judgement-free space to have an open conversation. Language support options are available once an appointment is booked. Visit their website for more information and to book your appointment.

    More resources:

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

    Page last updated: December 31, 2021

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