What to expect when you get a COVID-19 vaccine

What you need to know before, during and after a covid 19 vaccination.

Last updated: March 15, 2021

Booking a vaccination

Ontario’s vaccine booking system is now available

Who can schedule a vaccination

You can book a covid 19 vaccination appointment for:

  • yourself
  • a family member, friend or someone whose medical care and appointments you manage

If you are not in one of the groups in the following section, please do not try to book an appointment yet. You will be screened to make sure you meet the current eligibility criteria.

How to schedule a vaccination

Your options for scheduling a vaccination will depend on which of the following eligible groups you belong to.

High-risk populations

If you live or work somewhere with high-risk populations, check with your employer, care home or community group about their vaccination plan.

People 80 or older

Book online

You can currently book an appointment at a mass vaccination clinic through the provincial online vaccine booking system if you say “yes” to all of the following. You:

  • are 80 or older in 2021
  • have a green photo health (OHIP) card (you will need numbers from both the front and back of the card, expired cards will be accepted)
  • have an email address (your own or someone helping you book your appointment)
  • have a modern web browser (the booking site is not compatible with Internet Explorer 11 or earlier)

By booking through the provincial online vaccine booking system, you are scheduling an appointment at a mass vaccination clinic. These clinics are held in large public locations (such as recreation or entertainment centres), but are not hospitals, pharmacies or mobile clinics.

Book by phone

If you are not eligible to book online (for example, if you do not have a photo health card), or prefer to schedule an appointment by phone, call the Provincial Vaccine Booking Line at 1-833-943-3900 (TTY 1-866-797-0007).

This line is available 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., 7 days a week. Information is available in more than 300 languages.

You may have to wait for an agent if call volumes are high.

Book at a regional clinic

Some public health units have regional clinics. Appointments at those clinics cannot be booked through the provincial online vaccine booking system.

Answer a few questions to find out how to book an appointment.

People age 60 to 64

If you are turning 60 to 64 in 2021, you may be eligible to get the AstraZeneca vaccine.

You are encouraged to speak with your health care provider to determine if this vaccine is right for you before booking an appointment. You should discuss:

  • vaccine options
  • information about efficacy
  • the timing of future vaccine options

Visit your pharmacy

You may be able to get an AstraZeneca vaccine at a pharmacy in the following public health unit regions:

  • Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington
  • Toronto
  • Windsor-Essex County

Through your doctor or primary care provider

You may be able to get vaccinated in a primary care setting, such as your doctor’s office, if you live in one of the following public health unit regions:

  • Hamilton Public Health Services
  • Peel Public Health
  • Peterborough Public Health
  • Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit
  • Toronto Public Health
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Health Unit

Primary care providers will not be taking appointments by request but will be contacting eligible Ontarians aged 60 to 64 directly to book an appointment.

What to bring with you

No matter where you are getting vaccinated, you should bring:

  • your Ontario health (OHIP) card (if you have one) or another piece of government-issued identification
  • a face covering or mask (wear one at all times)
  • assistive or accessibility devices (if you need them)

Wear clothing that allows easy access to your upper arm and shoulder area, such as a t-shirt.

Some locations may have additional requirements. Make sure to check if you need to bring anything else, such as another form of identification, when you book your appointment.

Bringing people with you

If possible, please avoid bringing people with you if they do not have an appointment.

If you need someone with you, ask the clinic ahead of time to confirm if this is possible. They will not be able to get vaccinated unless they have an appointment too.

On the day of your appointment

The clinic staff or health care provider will tell you about the process before the covid 19 vaccination begins and answer any questions you have.

They will also ask you to consent to:

  • getting the covid 19 vaccine
  • collecting your sociodemographic data (such as your race and household size)

Providing your sociodemographic data is voluntary. You will be able to get the vaccine whether you provide the information or not.

How long it takes

Getting the shot should only take a few minutes. However, you may have to wait:

  • for your turn when you get to the clinic or pharmacy
  • 15 to 30 minutes after you get vaccinated, to make sure you are feeling well

Vaccination receipt

After you are vaccinated, the staff will give you a paper or electronic receipt to:

  • confirm you got the vaccine
  • give you instructions for scheduling your second dose (if you have not done so already), depending on which vaccine you get

For some vaccine locations, you must keep the receipt from the first dose and bring it to your second appointment. Make sure to check the requirements where you get vaccinated.

Follow public health measures

  • Wear a face covering or mask
  • Keep at least 2 metres away from people you do not live with
  • Wash or sanitize your hands often
  • Stay home and reschedule your appointment if you're experiencing any covid 19 symptoms or have been exposed to the virus

After your vaccination

Wait for 15 minutes after getting the vaccine to make sure you are feeling well. Do not drive during this time.

You may be asked to wait at the clinic for up to 30 minutes if there is any concern you might have an allergic reaction.

Possible side effects

Like any medication, vaccines can cause mild side effects and reactions. These can last a few hours or a couple of days after vaccination.

Common side effects may include:

  • redness, soreness or swelling on the arm where you got the shot
  • tiredness
  • headache
  • muscle and joint pain
  • chills
  • mild fever

When to call your doctor

Vaccine reactions are rare. However, they may occur up to three days after getting vaccinated.

Contact your doctor or healthcare provider if:

  • the redness or tenderness where you got the shot gets worse after 24 hours
  • you are worried about your side effects and they last more than a few days

If you think you might be having a severe allergic reaction after leaving the vaccination site, call 911.

Getting your second dose

To develop an effective infection-fighting response, you need to get two doses of:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Moderna
  • AstraZeneca

You must get the same vaccine for both doses.

Scheduling your second appointment

If you schedule your appointment through the provincial online vaccine booking system, you will need to book appointments for both doses together to make sure you get the second dose at the right time.

Other locations may give you instructions on scheduling your second appointment when you get your first dose.

For some vaccine locations, you must bring your receipt from the first dose to your second appointment. Make sure to check the requirements where you get vaccinated.

If you only need a second dose

If you are eligible for vaccination in Ontario and already got your first dose outside of the province, call the Provincial Vaccine Booking Line at 1-833-943-3900 (TTY 1-866-797-0007) to book your second dose. You cannot book an individual second dose online.

You will need to provide information about your first dose (for example, what vaccine you got, where and when you got it).

Changing, cancelling and missed appointments

Find out how to change, cancel or rebook an appointment if you scheduled it through the provincial online vaccine booking system.

If you booked your appointment with the public health unit or hospital, contact them directly to make any changes.

Contacts for more information

General vaccine information

For questions and general information about covid 19 vaccination, you can:

Help with the provincial online vaccine booking system

For help with your booking through the provincial online vaccine booking system, please:

  • visit our booking support page
  • call the Provincial Vaccine Booking Line at 1-833-943-3900 (TTY 1-866-797-0007)
    • information is available in more than 300 languages
    • this line is available 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., 7 days a week
    • you may have to wait for an agent when call volumes are high