Getting a COVID-19 vaccine in Ontario

Safe and effective vaccines will help protect us against covid 19. Learn about them and when they will be available in Ontario for you and your family.

This page will be updated regularly.

Why get vaccinated

Safe and reliable vaccines can help protect you and your family from covid 19. They will be an important tool to help stop the spread of the virus and allow individuals, families and workers to safely resume normal life.

When a large percentage of the population becomes immune to covid 19, the spread of the virus will slow down or stop.

Vaccine protection is different for each disease. For example, to stop their spread:

  • approximately 80% of the population must be immune to polio
  • up to 95% of the population must be immune to measles

As evidence is evolving on covid 19 and vaccines, additional research is needed to determine how much of the population needs to be vaccinated to stop its spread. We encourage as many Ontarians as possible to get vaccinated.

Building immunity takes time

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines approved for use in Canada require two doses, administered a 21 to 28 days apart, for your body to develop infection fighting response.

Health officials anticipate that these vaccines will be effective against the original strain of covid 19 and the new variant identified in the UK.

Until vaccines are widely available for everyone to receive two doses and enough people are vaccinated to stop the spread, we all must:

When vaccines will be available

The government is rolling out a three-phase distribution plan to ensure Ontario is prepared to receive, store and administer covid 19 vaccines as soon as they are available. It focuses first on vulnerable populations that are at greatest risk of covid 19 and severe illness and those who care for them.

After independent and thorough scientific reviews for safety, efficacy and quality, Health Canada has approved two vaccines for use in Canada:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech – approved on December 9, 2020
  • Moderna – approved on December 23, 2020

The Ethical Framework for covid 19 vaccine distribution guides how the government prioritizes and distributes vaccines across the province.

See our plan at-a-glance (PDF)

Phase 1: high-risk population vaccination

Timing

December 2020 to March 2021

Who will be vaccinated

Early doses will be available for residents of:

  • long-term care homes
  • high-risk retirement homes
  • First Nations elder care homes
Priorities for administering first doses of vaccines
Immediate priority

Immediate priorities for first doses include:

  • staff, essential caregivers and any residents that have not yet received a first dose in:
    • long-term care homes
    • high-risk retirement homes
    • First Nations elder care homes
  • alternative level of care patients in hospitals who have a confirmed admission to a long-term care home, retirement home or other congregate care home for seniors
  • health care workers identified as highest priority, followed by very high priority, in the Ministry of Health’s guidance on Health Care Worker Prioritization (PDF)
  • Indigenous adults in northern remote and higher risk communities (on-reserve and urban)
Next priority

When all reasonable steps have been taken to complete first doses of the vaccine for all interested individuals in the immediate category, first doses will be available to the remainder of the Phase 1 populations.

This includes:

Rollout

Vaccines have been delivered to all 34 public health units. The model of delivery will vary depending on the region.

To vaccinate people as quickly as possible, we are continuing to provide vaccinations in:

  • hospitals
  • on-site clinics for:
    • northern and remote First Nation communities
    • on-reserve Indigenous residents
    • adult chronic home care recipients
  • mobile sites for:
    • congregate living facilities
    • urban Indigenous communities

Phase 2: mass deliveries of vaccines

Timing

April to July 2021, depending on availability of vaccines

Who will be vaccinated

Approximately 8.7 million people from the following groups will receive vaccines:

  • older adults, beginning with those 79 years of age and decreasing in five-year increments over the course of the vaccine rollout
  • people who live and work in high-risk congregate settings (for example, shelters, community living)
  • frontline essential workers, including first responders, education workers and the food processing industry
  • individuals with high-risk chronic conditions and their caregivers
  • other populations and communities facing barriers related to the determinants of health across Ontario who are at greater covid 19 risk

The task force will use the ethical framework and the best available data to identify other priority populations within this phase, based on available vaccine supply.

Rollout

Over the coming months, more sites are being added to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible.

Vaccines will be available at:

  • municipally-run vaccination sites
  • hospitals
  • mobile vaccination sites
  • pharmacies
  • clinics
  • primary care settings
  • community locations, such as community health centre and Aboriginal health access centres

Health care providers: help administer vaccines

As the vaccine supply increases, the government has enabled more health care providers to administer approved covid 19 vaccines, including:

  • nurse practitioners, registered nurses and registered practical nurses
  • pharmacists, pharmacy students and interns and pharmacy technicians

Register and apply through Ontario’s Matching Portal if you are in any of these groups and want to help get vaccines to people as quickly and safely as possible.

If you are a primary care provider, contact your local public health unit to help.

Phase 3: steady state

Timing

August 2021 and beyond, depending on availability of vaccines

Who will be vaccinated

Remaining Ontarians in the general population who wish to be vaccinated will receive the vaccine.

The ethical framework, data and available vaccine supply will help to prioritize groups in this phase.

Vaccines will not be mandatory, but you are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated.

The federal government has advance agreements with several manufacturers to purchase covid 19 vaccines once the scientific studies are completed and the vaccines are approved for use in Canada.

Ontario is ready to receive and distribute more covid 19 vaccines as soon as they are available.

How we are prioritizing vaccinations

Since there is a limited supply in the first few months of the vaccine program, some groups can get a covid 19 vaccines before others. Learn about our Phase 1 priorities. As more vaccines become available in Canada, more groups will be able to be vaccinated.

As further information becomes available from clinical trials and from Health Canada approvals, the groups for which the vaccines are authorized for use could also change.

To ensure equity and integrity in vaccine delivery, public health units and vaccination clinics are filling last-minute cancellations, no-shows and end-of-day remaining doses with people who are in Phase 1 priority groups.

Our priorities are guided by:

Ethical framework for covid 19 vaccine distribution

An ethical framework is guiding vaccine prioritization and distribution across the province. This will ensure that:

  • decisions related to vaccine distribution priorities are consistent, fair and transparent
  • diverse perspectives are captured in government feedback and recommendations, so that all Ontarians who want to get vaccinated are accounted for

The framework includes six principles:

  • minimize harms and maximize benefits
  • equity
  • fairness
  • transparency
  • legitimacy
  • public trust

Read the full framework.

Guidance for prioritizing health care workers for covid 19 vaccination

Ontario’s Ministry of Health developed guidance for prioritizing vaccinations for health care workers (PDF). This guidance:

  • complements our overall prioritization sequence
  • balances provincial consistency with regional and local flexibility, recognizing the nuance of local and regional contexts and data

Health care workers are prioritized based on:

  • risk of exposure
  • patient populations served
  • incidence of covid 19 outbreaks

Distributing Pfizer-BioNTech vs Moderna vaccines

Both covid 19 vaccines are fragile and must be stored and transported in special conditions to keep them stable and effective.

While you can store the Moderna vaccine at -20 degrees Celsius, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires colder temperatures, around -70 degrees Celsius. This means the Moderna vaccine is easier to transport and store safely.

Because of this, the government plans to administer the:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine primarily in hospitals in urban areas
  • Moderna vaccine in long-term care homes, congregate settings that provide care for seniors and more rural and remote communities

COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force

The covid 19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force is advising Ontario as it plans the immunization program and delivers vaccines.

The task force is advising and providing recommendations on:

  • how to deliver, store and distribute vaccines
  • support for partners in the health care system to deliver vaccinations in phases, beginning with vulnerable populations
  • clinical guidance to administer the vaccine and track vaccine uptake
  • reporting data and technology to provide timely, relevant and accurate information to health care providers, decision-makers and the public
  • public education and community outreach efforts to encourage people to get the vaccine

Members

  • General (retired) Rick Hillier, former Chief of Defence Staff for the Canadian Forces (chair)
  • Mario Di Tommaso, Deputy Solicitor General, Community Safety, Commissioner of Emergency Management (vice-chair)
  • Helen Angus, Deputy Minister of Health (vice-chair)
  • Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald of Taykwa Tagamou Nation
  • Dr. Isaac Bogoch, infectious diseases consultant and internist, Toronto General Hospital
  • Dr. Dirk Huyer, Ontario’s Chief Coroner and Coordinator of Provincial Outbreak Response
  • Angela Mondou, President and CEO, Technation
  • Mark Saunders, former Toronto Police Chief
  • Dr. Maxwell Smith, bioethicist and assistant professor, Western University
  • Dr. Homer Tien, trauma surgeon and President and CEO, Ornge
  • Dr. Regis Vaillancourt, Director of Pharmacy, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario
  • Dr. Kieran Moore, Medical Officer of Health, Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington

Ex-officio members

  • Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health, Public Health
  • Matt Anderson, President and CEO, Ontario Health
  • Shawn Batise, Deputy Minister, Indigenous Affairs Ontario
  • Lynn Betzner, Deputy Minister, Intergovernmental Affairs & Associate Secretary of the Cabinet
  • Laurie LeBlanc, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Transportation
  • Giles Gherson, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade
  • Karen Hughes, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Government and Consumer Affairs
  • Richard Steele, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Long-Term Care
  • Denise Cole, Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility