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COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution FAQs

COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution FAQs

Last Update: February 26, 2021  

The following questions were those most frequently asked by residents and Members of Council from January 4, 2021 to present. These FAQs will be updated regularly as new details emerge from all levels of government.

It is important to note that new information on COVID-19 vaccines is emerging from the senior levels of government every day. Federal and provincial vaccine distribution timelines are in flux given the limited supply of vaccines currently available.

Planning and Distribution

1. Who is determining who can get a COVID-19 vaccine and when? *(Updated)

The Government of Canada is responsible for approval and procurement of COVID-19 vaccine supply. The Government of Ontario is responsible for the distribution of these vaccines across the province. The Ethical Framework for COVID-19 vaccine distribution guides how the provincial government prioritizes and distributes vaccines across Ontario.

The City’s Emergency Operations Centre and Ottawa Public Health are doing everything possible to ensure Ottawa residents who want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine will be able to access it as quickly and efficiently as possible, dependent on vaccine supply and in alignment with the provincial framework. The total amount of vaccines that will be distributed to the City of Ottawa and precise delivery dates are not yet known. These decisions are made by the province and subject to vaccine procurement from the federal government.

Currently, the province has advised that they are adjusting vaccination plans in response to shipment delays. For the latest information, please refer to the following web page:

Government of Ontario: Getting a COVID-19 vaccine in Ontario

2. Where will I be able to get vaccinated against COVID-19?

Various strategies will be used to distribute and administer vaccines across Ottawa, based on the quantity and type of vaccines received throughout 2021. The primary locations and strategies will include hospital clinics, community clinics, pharmacies, mobile vaccination teams, primary health care providers like family doctors and by other health care professionals such as nurses working in congregate living settings, including long-term care homes and shelters.

3. Where will the community clinics be located?

The City of Ottawa has identified the following locations for future community clinics to administer vaccines:

  • Ottawa City Hall, 110 Laurier Avenue W.
  • Horticulture Building, 1525 Princess Patricia Way
  • Eva James Memorial Centre, 65 Stonehaven Drive
  • Ruddy Family YMCA-YWCA, 265 Centrum Boulevard
  • Nepean Sportsplex, 1701 Woodroffe Avenue
  • Canterbury Recreation Complex, 2185 Arch Street
  • St-Laurent Complex, 525 Coté St.

Please note these community clinics are not yet in operation. They can, however, be stood up within 72 hours in the event large amounts of vaccines become available.

In addition to community clinics, mobile vaccination teams will continue to be deployed as needed to reach targeted populations, including homeless and rural residents. Pop-up clinics will also be set up at select sites for multiple days but are not permanent. They will be located in neighbourhoods experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 transmission.

4. When will the community clinics open?

Timelines for opening community clinics will depend on vaccine supply and community clinics will be opened incrementally as supply increases. Under the province’s phased approach to vaccine roll-out, these community clinics are unlikely to be fully operational until Phase 2 (starting April 2021), dependent on vaccine availability.

Once fully operational, these community clinics will operate from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., seven days a week and have the capacity to administer a total of nearly 11,000 immunizations per day.

5. Is there a list I need to be on to get the vaccine?

No. The City of Ottawa and Ottawa Public Health will undertake robust public information campaigns to keep residents informed on the vaccine rollout locally.

6. How will I be notified when it's my turn to get the vaccine?

Right now, vaccine supply is limited. As supply is expected to increase in the coming months, the City of Ottawa and Ottawa Public Health will be communicating through various media channels on who is eligible to present where for vaccination.


7. When will I be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine, and who comes next in Ottawa? (*Updated)

The Province has started to roll out a three-phased vaccine distribution implementation plan. All groups are identified by the provincial task force using the ethical framework for COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

Phase 1: high-risk population vaccination

Timing: December 2020 to March 2021

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, and 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).

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:

Phase 2: mass deliveries of vaccines

Timing: April to July 2021, depending on availability of vaccines

The Province of Ontario has identified the following groups as part of Phase 2 of the rollout plan:

  • 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 provincial 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.

Phase 3: steady state

Timing: August 2021 and beyond, depending on availability of vaccines

Vaccines available widely across Ontario for anyone in the general population who wants to be immunized. The ethical framework, data and available vaccine supply will help to prioritize groups in this phase.

These timelines are subject to change subject to change and are dependent on possible additional vaccine approvals and supply. For more information on vaccine sequencing in Ottawa, please visit Ottawa Public Health’s website.

For the latest information, please refer to the following web page:

Government of Ontario: Getting a COVID-19 vaccine in Ontario

8. When will people in Ottawa start getting vaccinated against COVID-19?

The Ottawa Hospital administered the city’s first COVID-19 vaccine on December 15, 2020. Since then, thousands of vaccines have been administered in Ottawa to higher-risk populations and those that care for them in accordance with the Province’s phased approach to vaccine rollout.

9. When can the general public get vaccinated against COVID-19?

Starting August 2021, and depending on availability of vaccines, it is anticipated that all remaining eligible Ontarians in the general population who wish to be vaccinated will be offered a COVID-19 vaccine.

10. I am an older adult, but I don’t live in a long-term care or retirement home. When can I be vaccinated against COVID-19? *

On February 14, 2021, the Province of Ontario provided updated direction on the sequencing of Phase 1 priority populations for COVID-19 vaccination. Adults aged 80 and over (not living in congregate homes for seniors) are now part of Phase 1 of the provincial rollout plan, once supply increases. Previously, these older adults were in Phase 2.

Given limited vaccine supply, immediate access to all residents in the Phase 1 population group is not possible. The City and Ottawa Public Health will undertake a phased approach, beginning with pop-up clinics in communities experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 transmission. Vaccinations for the broader community of adults 80 years and older will begin later in March, pending vaccine supply.

Older adults, beginning with those 79 years and older and decreasing in five-year increments over the course of the vaccine rollout, are expected to be offered vaccines, depending on their availability, as part of Phase 2 of the province’s framework for prioritization.

For more information on the Provinces three-phased vaccine distribution implementation plan, please refer to question number 7.

11. I am an essential worker. When can I be vaccinated against COVID-19?

Frontline essential workers, including: first responders, teachers and other education staff and food processing workers are expected to be offered vaccines in Phase 2 from April to August 2021. Specific timing will depend on the availability of vaccines, and the Province of Ontario is responsible for further defining the parameters of who is considered a frontline essential worker in the coming weeks. The Provincial 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.

12. My spouse and I are seniors that fall into separate age categories. Will we get vaccinated at the same time? *(New)

Adults 80 years and older are part of Phase 1 of the provincial vaccine rollout plan. Adults 79 years of age and decreasing in five-year increments over the course of the vaccine rollout will begin in Phase 2.

As more information becomes available it will be posted to the Province’s COVID-19 vaccines for Ontario page.

13. If I am the essential care giver of a child who has special needs or health issues that puts them at risk, where do I fit in? When can I expect to be vaccinated? 

The Province of Ontario has predefined teachers and other education staff as essential workers under Phase 2 of the provincial vaccination roll-out plan. The Province is responsible for further defining who else is captured and included under Phase 2. At this time, specific information about the prioritization for caregivers of children with disabilities is not available, but we expect the province to have further direction on Phase 2 implementation in the coming weeks.

14. Am I able to join a waitlist to be prioritized for the vaccine? *(New)

At this time, there is no sign-up or waiting list. Eligibility is based on the Government of Ontario’s three-phase distribution plan. The vaccine will be distributed to populations of highest priority and based on vaccine supply.We know many people are anxious to be immunized for COVID-19, including those who are considered higher-risk or have other underlying health conditions. Please continue to follow all public health guidelines to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

As more information becomes available it will be posted to the Province’s COVID-19 vaccines for Ontario page.

Vaccine Information & Safety

15. Is getting the COVID-19 vaccine voluntary?

Yes. COVID-19 vaccines will not be mandatory, but you are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated.

16. How do I decide if vaccination is the right choice for me and my family?

Feeling worried or hesitant is completely normal when something is new. Vaccination is a personal choice, and one that most Canadians agree is an important part of maintaining good health and for disease prevention.

17. Why should I get vaccinated against COVID-19?

Vaccination is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread and reduce the impact of infectious diseases. Safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19 are becoming available to protect us against COVID-19. While many people infected with COVID-19 experience only mild illness, others may get a severe illness or even die. There is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you, even if you are not considered to be at increased risk of severe complications. COVID-19 vaccination helps protect you by creating an antibody response without having to experience the illness itself.

18. Can people who have already tested positive for COVID-19 get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. Those who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 should still be vaccinated and people do not need COVID-19 testing prior to vaccination.

Other Questions

19. How are we engaging the community and specific groups like Indigenous, seniors, racialized communities?

Ottawa Public Health has established a local Vaccine Sequence Strategy Task Force to advise the City’s Emergency Operations Centre on how to implement the sequence of vaccines given local context, including maximizing uptake among groups sequenced ahead of others. This Task Force includes representation from groups highly affected by COVID-19, such as newcomers, Indigenous, racialized people, older adults, and healthcare workers. The Vaccine Sequencing Task Force relies on the framework established by the Province of Ontario.

20. What can I do now and how can I help?

It will be several months until a vaccine is available to the general public. In the meantime, it is essential that we all continue to do our part to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in the community: limit your close contacts to those within your household, practice physical distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands, stay home except for essential reasons and follow local and provincial guidance.

Until vaccines are widely available, it remains important to take steps to protect yourself, your loved ones and our community against COVID-19. Learn more about things you can do to reduce virus spread by following OPH on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. To keep up-to-date with the latest information, follow “COVID Decoded” with Dr. Trevor Arnason, on OPH’s YouTube channel.

21. Will I need to continue wearing mask after being vaccinated?

While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue practicing public health measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19. That means covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often and never touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands, staying at least 2 metres (6 feet) away from others and self-isolating when sick. Health care and other staff must still wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when working, even after they have been vaccinated.

22. How long until “things are back to normal”?

COVID-19 vaccination, along with continued public health measures, will offer the best protection from the spread of COVID-19. Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines afford before determining any change in public health guidelines. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect these decisions.

Once a person is vaccinated with the series of two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, they should continue following public health measures like wearing a mask, physical distancing and self-isolating when they become sick.

23. Can I volunteer to assist with vaccine distribution? *(New)

Ottawa Public Health is seeking physicians and community/primary care immunizers for COVID-19 vaccination at long-term care, retirement homes and other congregate care settings on a volunteer basis. If you or your organization are interested in offering to help support the vaccine rollout as immunizers, please contact

At this time, plans have not been finalized for the use of volunteers to assist with immunization clinics given the availability of vaccine supply remains unknown. However, those looking for information on volunteering can contact If volunteers are needed, you may be contacted to assist.

24. What mental health resources are available to those feeling anxious about vaccine availability? *(New)

The COVID-19 situation can be very stressful. It is OK to not be OK.

If you are in crisis, please contact the Mental Health Crisis Line (24 hours a day/7 days a week) at 613-722-6914 or if outside Ottawa toll-free at 1-866-996-0991.

Please visit Ottawa Public Health’s Mental Health and COVID-19 page for an extensive list of resources, including a printable version of a Mental Health and COVID-19 Resource List.

More information