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Department of Family and Community Medicine and St. Michael’s Academic Family Health Team

Flu vaccines, COVID-19 vaccine and the Grade 7/8 vaccines

Spotlight: COVID-19 Vaccine Q & A

Did you miss our COVID-19 vaccine Q&A session on Feb. 24? Watch the replay here.

COVID-19 vaccine

We strongly encourage everyone who is eligible and can receive a COVID-19 vaccine to get one, once they can. Vaccines will become more available in the coming months, which is exciting news!

We are following the Ministry of Health’s Guidelines on vaccine roll-out. The provinces plan is divided into three phases. Learn more about the phases and when you may become eligible for a vaccine. Please know that currently, we do not have any vaccines in our clinics.

The next priority groups are seniors over the age of 80, all Indigenous adults, and those who receive chronic home care. Coordination is underway to determine the locations these vaccines will be available and how to book an appointment. At this time, we do not have any further information on how to book your appointment.

If you have any specific questions or concerns about the vaccines, we encourage you to call and book a virtual visit with your Doctor or Nurse Practitioner to discuss this more. Please do not call for direction on booking a vaccine appointment, as we do not have that information.

We know people have many questions. Below are commonly asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccines written by our team.

How do the COVID-19 vaccines work?

The vaccine works to train your immune system to respond quickly for a possible future infection and helps to prevent you from getting sick.

The two currently approved vaccines are called mRNA vaccines. mRNA is not new and is something that we already rely on in our bodies. The mRNA in the vaccine gives our body the instructions to make the coronavirus’ “spike proteins”. These “spike proteins” are harmless to us and will trigger our body to start making antibodies. These antibodies will then be used if you are ever exposed to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 illness and will prevent you from getting sick or lessen the severity of your illness.

Will these new vaccines alter my DNA?

The mRNA does not interact with our DNA in any way nor does it enter our cells where our DNA (genetic material) is kept. After the mRNA is used to give our body instructions to make antibodies, our cells will break it down. This means there are no long-term interactions that can occur after your body creates your new antibodies.

How were the vaccines developed so fast?

Global funding allowed for large well-organized vaccine trials to be run. This also allowed for phases of the trials to proceed seamlessly. No steps were skipped in vaccine development or safety evaluation. Normally, vaccine clinical trials need 6000-8000 people for approval processes. The Pfizer-BioNTech trial had more than 43,000 people and the Moderna trail had more than 30,000, which is much more than the numbers required.

What vaccines are currently available and how effective are they?

The two current vaccines available are made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Both are extremely effective to prevent a COVID-19 infection. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is reported as 95% effective 7 days after the second dose, and the Moderna vaccine is reported as 94% effective 14 days after the second dose. Both require two doses given 21 to 42 days apart. They will both be given with a needle into the muscle located on the top part of your arm.

In the coming weeks, we may see approval for vaccines produced by AstraZeneca and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson). As information becomes available about these vaccines, we will keep you updated.

Will these vaccines protect against the new variants?

So far, there is no evidence that shows these vaccines will not work. They may not work as well for specific variants, but will still provide a level of protection to prevent severe illness. Studies are ongoing to look at this and determine if additional doses would be required for added protection.

What are some side effects I might expect after getting my vaccine?

Common side effects after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine include a sore arm, muscle ache or joint pain, headache, feelings of fatigue or a mild fever. However, not everyone will develop side effects. The side effects usually last for one to three days only and may be more common after the second dose as your body develops an immune response to the vaccine.

Very rarely, a severe allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis can occur shortly after receiving a dose of the vaccine. After you receive your vaccine, you will be monitored for 15 minutes and treatment will be provided to you should you develop a severe reaction.

Do the vaccines contain animal products?

The COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any egg, gelatin, latex, blood products, preservatives or antibiotics.

Who should get a COVID-19 Vaccine series (two doses)?

Everyone who is eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccine should get one once it is available!

Currently the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved for people 16 years of age and older. The Moderna vaccine is currently approved for people 18 years of age and older. Studies are ongoing to look at vaccines available for people under the age of 16.

You should not receive vaccination if you have a proven severe allergic reaction to any ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccines (e.g. polyethylene glycol). You should note receive the second dose of the vaccine if you develop a severe allergic reaction to the first dose of the vaccine.

Polyethylene glycol (PEG) is found in both vaccines. It is a very common chemical that is found in some food and drinks, makeup, skin care products, personal lubricants, toothpastes, contact lenses as well as some common medications such as laxatives and cough and cold medicines.

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, immunocompromised or have any chronic health conditions, you are encouraged to speak with your doctor or nurse practitioner about the vaccine. People in these groups are still eligible and encouraged to get a COVID-19 vaccine if it is determined to be the right choice based on conversations with your doctor or nurse practitioner.

Will I still need to wear a mask after getting my vaccine?

YES! While getting your COVID-19 vaccine is an important step in protecting yourself and others from getting the virus, it is still important for everyone to continue with public health measures like wearing a mask, physical distancing, washing hands often, and staying home when sick until vaccines are more widely available.

Where can I find information in different languages?

The Crossroads Clinic, in partnership with Refugee 613, TAIBU Community Health Centre and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI), developed a multi-language bulletin to bring you the vaccination facts. It’s important you have the correct information, so that when it’s your turn to get the vaccine you can make an informed decision.

Other helpful resources to learn about COVID-19 vaccines

Grade 7/8 School HPV & Hepatitis B Vaccination Program

If you have a child in grade 7 or 8, you already know the school vaccination program was put on hold for this year.
If your child is now in grade 8, it is likely they require a second dose of their HPV and Hepatitis B vaccine series. We are offering these vaccines in our clinics. Please call us to talk to with your doctor or nurse about these important vaccines and schedule an appointment.

At the moment we are focusing on providing a second dose to students who started this vaccine series last year. We are hopeful the school vaccination program will restart next school year and students who did not start their series will get them next school year.

To learn more about these important vaccines, please read more on Toronto Public Health’s Website.

Flu vaccine information

If you still want to get your flu vaccine you can contact us to book an appointment. You can ask to book with a nurse at your clinic during the week Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

You can also email to schedule an appointment. You must have an email consent on file to use this option. When sending an email booking request please include your full name, date of birth, phone number, family doctor’s name, clinic location and reason for visit.

Learn more about the flu and ways to protect yourself and your loved ones this season. We can all do our part to keep ourselves, each other, and our community safe.

Please note: You must pass COVID-19 screening questions in order to come in and have your flu shot. This is to help ensure the safety of you, staff and other patients in the clinic. All patients will be screened at the door.