Unity Health Toronto has opened appointment-based COVID-19 vaccination clinics at St. Michael’s Hospital and St. Joseph’s Health Centre as part of the first phase of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccination program. As directed by the Ministry of Health, vaccination clinics in Ontario are prioritizing health care workers in high-risk settings first, such as long-term care homes and hospitals.
Unity Health is also supporting long-term care homes across the city to administer the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to residents, essential caregivers and staff.
When the province receives more vaccines we can expect more information will be shared about additional phases in their vaccination program.
Health Canada has determined the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine are safe and has approved them for use in the country. This is a significant milestone in our fight against COVID-19. These vaccines will help protect the most vulnerable, health care workers and our communities and will be key to supporting our country’s recovery from the pandemic.
As we enter this early phase of COVID-19 vaccination, it is critical that everyone continue to follow all public health measures, including wearing a mask, physical distancing and practicing frequent and proper hand hygiene, even for those who receive a vaccine.
A note for our long-term care and retirement home partners that Unity Health has been supporting as part of our hub and spoke model: Due to significantly reduced shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to Canada over the next 4 weeks, provincial direction is to immediately pause any new first doses until we are able to confirm more vaccine shipments and fulfill second dose requirements. To manage our supply of second doses, our Unity Health vaccination clinics may be reaching out to individuals to reschedule some second dose appointments in upcoming weeks. We are working closely with the Province to ensure long-term care and retirement homes staff and essential caregivers who received a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine can receive their second dose within the updated guidelines of 21 to 27 days.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
UNITY HEALTH CLINICS
As directed by the Ministry of Health, the provincial vaccination clinics are currently prioritizing health-care workers and essential caregivers in high-risk settings, such as long-term care homes and hospitals.
When the province begins to receive more vaccines, we can expect more information will be shared about additional phases in their vaccination program.
To be eligible for vaccination at one of our clinics, health-care workers must be:
- Currently on rotation or placement at – or employed by – Unity Health Toronto; OR
- Identified as working in a priority group as defined by the Ministry of Health AND currently working in or supporting an institution or facility partnered with Unity Health Toronto for vaccine administration
We recommend that you connect directly with your employer to see if they’re partnered with a vaccination clinic.
ABOUT THE VACCINES
Two vaccines have been approved by Health Canada:
- Pfizer-BioNTech – approved on Dec. 9, 2020
- Moderna – approved on Dec. 23, 2020
More information on the approval process can be found on the Health Canada website.
The Astra Zeneca vaccine is being reviewed by Health Canada and has not yet been approved for use and distribution in Canada.
Yes. The vaccines have gone through the same rigorous process as all Health Canada drugs. The vaccines have been tested in extensive clinical trials and proven safe for individuals over the age of 16 who do not meet certain exclusion criteria.
More information on vaccine safety can be found on the Health Canada website.
The most recent data from clinical trials shows that both vaccines are more than 94% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 within a couple weeks of receiving the second dose.
Both vaccines are mRNA vaccines, which work by teaching our cells to make a protein that triggers an immune response to COVID-19 without using the live virus that causes COVID-19. This immune response results in the production of antibodies, which help us fight infection if the real virus enters our body in the future.
More information can be found on the Health Canada website.
Both vaccines are given by injection into the muscle of the arm. For the vaccine to work best, two doses are needed – a single dose, followed by a second dose 21 days (Pfizer-BioNTech) or one month (Moderna) apart.
More information can be found on the Health Canada website.
Serious adverse reactions are extremely rare. The most common side effects are mild or moderate and may include:
- Pain, swelling and redness at the injection site
- Chills and fever
- Stomach and digestive discomfort, including nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Muscle or joint pain
Please speak with your health professional about any serious allergies or other health conditions you may have before you receive any vaccine.
VACCINE SAFETY AND ELIGIBILITY
No. Although both COVID-19 vaccinations provide protection against symptomatic infection, we don’t yet know whether they prevent the recipient from spreading the virus to others.
We must continue to practice the basics: wear a mask, practice physical distancing and wash your hands.
The vaccine is not yet available for healthy adults who do not work in health-care settings. However, as more vaccine becomes available, it’ll become important for all adults to be vaccinated.
Though young healthy adults may experience milder cases of COVID-19, serious illness and long-term complications can occur and young adults also account for a significant percentage of virus transmission. Vaccinating young healthy adults is an effective and important strategy for slowing the rate of COVID-19 transmission and protecting others, including those who are most vulnerable.
Individuals living with stable health conditions, including those who are immunosuppressed or on blood thinning medication may be eligible to get the vaccine. They are encouraged to consult with their primary care provider or specialist before getting vaccinated.
Individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding can get the vaccine in Ontario if they choose. They are encouraged to consult with their primary care provider or obstetrical care provider before being vaccinated.
More information can be found in this statement from the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada.
There’s little data available on the safety and efficacy of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines in children. Pediatric studies are ongoing but until we can be certain of the vaccines’ safety, they should not be administered to children.
Given the serious impact of COVID-19 on older individuals, healthy children will be a lowest priority group in the vaccine roll out, even once vaccination is approved for this age group. As a result, it will be some time before children are offered the vaccine. As more adults begin to get vaccinated, however, this will hopefully provide protection to children by reducing transmission from adults, such as parents or teachers, to children.
- Moderna COVID-19 vaccine: What you should know (Health Canada)
- Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine: What you should know (Health Canada)
- Information sheet – Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines (Ontario Ministry of Health)
- Statement on vaccination and pregnancy from the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada