Does the Canadian Muslim COVID-19 Task Force (CMCTF) or the Muslim Medical Association of Canada (MMAC) receive compensation for vaccine endorsement or any compensation from pharmaceutical companies?
No. The CMCTF and the MMAC have not ever received financial compensation from pharmaceutical companies for any of their initiatives. Nor will we accept any other incentive for any of our position statements on vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccines. Our position is based on the best available evidence (at the time of writing) and the wellbeing of patients and our community
Why is a Muslim organization getting involved in vaccine promotion?
The Canadian Muslim COVID-19 Task Force (CMCTF) is comprised of Muslim medical, spiritual and community organizations from coast to coast. The Muslim Medical Association of Canada (MMAC) is the steering medical organization of this task force and is comprised of practising Canadian Muslim physicians that work to promote healthy communities at a regional, national and international level.
For decades, Muslim physicians and governments, both in Canada and abroad, have actively promoted vaccinations as effective measures in preventing illness and death from preventable diseases. Increasing misinformation, mistrust, concerns regarding Islamic permissibility and geopolitical tensions have contributed towards lower vaccination rates within Muslim communities. Canadian Muslim physicians and Imams are also receiving lots of questions about COVID-19 vaccines from community members.
As a safe and effective measure that can help reduce the burden of illness and lives lost due to COVID-19 during this pandemic, this is of particular importance given that for a number of reasons, many Canadian Muslims are at higher risk of becoming infected with and experiencing complications of COVID-19. The CMCTF therefore aims to address any barriers which may needlessly hinder uptake of the COVID-19 vaccines within these communities.
This task force’s positions regarding the COVID-19 vaccines are based on the guidance and recommendations of Health Canada, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), Canadian Muslim physicians from the Muslim Medical Association of Canada (MMAC) and religious leaders from the Canadian Council of Imams (CCI).
Religious affiliation and immunization coverage in 15 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa
Outbreak of vaccine-preventable diseases in Muslim majority countries
Will the COVID-19 Vaccine be Mandatory?
It is not mandatory to get the COVID-19 vaccine as per federal and provincial authorities, however it is being offered free of charge to everyone in Canada who is recommended to get the vaccine, including those who aren’t citizens. This is because establishing herd immunity by vaccinating as much of the at-risk population as possible allows us to protect those that are most vulnerable.
The vaccines are already being recommended by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, and will likely become a requirement in the near future. There may be additional employment, educational, social or travel implications as well for those that choose not to get vaccinated.
Vaccines and treatments for COVID-19: Vaccine rollout
What is an mRNA Vaccine? Is it a Live Vaccine?
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are NOT live vaccines. Live vaccines contain a small, weakened part of a virus. While live vaccines are safe, they are usually not recommended for people who have a weakened immune system or are pregnant. Unlike live vaccines, the approved COVID-19 vaccines may be given to people with a weak immune system or who are pregnant, after a discussion with their healthcare provider.
Vaccines help you become immune to COVID-19, by exposing your body to a small part of the virus without you actually developing COVID-19.The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccines. mRNA is found in our cells naturally and is used to make proteins for cell growth and function.
The ‘spike protein’ is found on the outside of the coronavirus and is the key for it to be able to enter your cells. In the vaccine, the mRNA is a code for a part of the coronavirus spike protein. The mRNA code enters your cells and your own cell’s machinery makes parts of the coronavirus spike proteins. Then, your immune system recognizes these spike protein parts and begins to create antibodies (or fighter cells) against it. At no time does the mRNA enter your cells’ nucleus, where your DNA and genetic material is stored. Your antibodies have memory, so that if you are exposed to the coronavirus in the future, your body will already be prepared to fight it.
US Health and Human services - Vaccines Information
COVID-19 mRNA vaccines - Canada.ca
Who Should and Who Should Not Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?
Who Should Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?
All persons within the authorized age groups for each vaccine should receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as long as there are no contraindications (medical reasons advising against it).
Authorized age groups:
Pfizer-BioNTech (16 years or older)
Who Should Not Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?
Moderna (18 years or older)
Children and adolescents not in the authorized age groups (i.e. are below 16 years for Pfizer-BioNTech or below 18 years for the Moderna vaccines)
Any person who has previously had a severe allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine or any part of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Those who have food, environmental and other drug allergies may receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Mild allergies or reactions to any vaccine are not a contraindication to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Who Should Consult with their Healthcare Provider?
A risk assessment should be performed with the following groups and their healthcare provider to discuss their medical history and circumstances. If the benefits outweigh the risks, these persons may receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Any individual who is acutely ill or unwell should wait until all symptoms have completely resolved before receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women
Individuals with a weakened immune system (due to disease or treatments such as steroids or cancer medicines)
Individuals with an autoimmune condition
Individuals with a previous severe allergic reaction to other vaccines
If you have any questions or concerns related to your personal medical history, please discuss them with your healthcare provider.
Individuals with problem bleeding or bruising, or are taking blood-thinner medications.
Do People Who Have Previously Had COVID-19 Need to Get the Vaccine?
Yes. Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that people who have previously had COVID-19 should still receive the full COVID-19 vaccination series (e.g. both shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines), as long as they have not had a previous severe allergic reaction to the vaccine or its ingredients. This is because although rare within the first 3 months following COVID-19 infection, there have been reports of people getting re-infected with COVID-19.
It should be noted that individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 were not included in the clinical trials for the currently approved vaccines, and so the effectiveness of the vaccine for these individuals is not known.
Where Were the COVID-19 Vaccines Tested?
Currently, the two COVID-19 vaccines approved by Health Canada are the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was tested at over 150 sites in the United States, Europe, Latin America, and South Africa. There were approximately 44,000 participants in these clinical trials.
The Moderna vaccine was tested at 100 sites across the United States, with 30,000 participants in these clinical trials.
Pfizer-BioNTech NEJM clinical trial
Moderna NEJM clinical trial
How Were the COVID-19 Vaccines Approved so Quickly?
The genome, or genetic sequence, of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been known since January 10, 2020 and since then, over 100 teams of researchers across the world have been working to develop vaccines. Although typically it takes a couple of years before vaccines become approved for use, there are a number of reasons why several different teams and companies were able to independently develop vaccines so quickly.
Through an unprecedented collaborative effort between scientists, pharmaceutical companies and governments, development of these COVID-19 vaccines were given top priority with heavy funding to build on decades of previous foundational coronavirus research and more than 10 years of mRNA research, removal of administrative barriers and running parts of clinical trials in parallel. mRNA vaccines are quicker, easier and cheaper to produce than traditional vaccines. The widespread nature of COVID-19 also made it easier to recruit subjects for the clinical trials from different countries. This is a remarkable feat of modern science and technology, and a testament to what we can accomplish by working together.
In the third phase of the clinical trials, both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were tested in 30,000 to 45,000 participants, a large enough number to guarantee the validity of the results when it comes to how safe and effective any medication is. All vaccines being considered for approval still go through the independent rigorous process of ensuring all steps were executed and that they are effective, safe and high quality according to Health Canada’s standards. These vaccines were shown to be 95% effective in reducing the severity of COVID-19 regardless of age group, gender and ethnoracial group. While having received emergency regulatory approval for use given the millions that have died from this infectious disease already, both these vaccines will continue to have ongoing long-term studies that will assess both long-term safety and effectiveness.
How Can I Get the COVID-19 Vaccine and Where Should I Go to Get it?
When it is your turn to get vaccinated, there will be vaccination clinics and centres available in your area. High risk persons are currently being immunized within hospitals and long-term care homes. When your region or province is ready to offer vaccines to the general population (approximately April 2021), depending on the available vaccines, you will likely be able to get your vaccine at a community vaccination centre, your healthcare provider’s office and/or local pharmacy. An appointment may be required.
There have been reports of scams and people paying privately or travelling to get their COVID-19 vaccine elsewhere. Local and provincial public health units and health ministries are keeping track of vaccines administered in Canada. Attempts to bypass waitlists may result in future difficulties without an official record of vaccination. The vaccines are being distributed and administered on a priority basis, so please wait patiently for your turn. There will be enough doses for every eligible person in Canada and the COVID-19 vaccine will be free for all.
Vaccines and treatments for COVID-19: Vaccine rollout - Canada.ca
Should We Wait For Other Vaccines to Get Approved So We Can Decide Which One We Want to Take?
The approved vaccines thus far have been tested in tens of thousands of people and millions around the world have already been vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed on a priority basis, as determined by each province. If you are at high risk of getting or suffering from complications of COVID-19, it is best to get the vaccine as soon as you are eligible and it is offered to you. You may need to have a discussion with your healthcare provider to assess your risk in the context of your specific medical history and circumstances.
If you are deemed to be at low risk of getting or suffering from complications of COVID-19, you will probably have to wait your turn. By that time, more vaccines may have gotten approved and you may have more options available to you, we will have more data on vaccine effectiveness and safety in real world settings and you may feel more comfortable with one vaccine over another.
Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine: What you should know - Canada.ca
Moderna COVID-19 vaccine: What you should know - Canada.ca
Can We Complete the COVID-19 Vaccine Series With Two Different Vaccines? (i.e. one Moderna and one Pfizer vaccine)
Official guidelines recommend that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine be given as two doses 21 days apart, and the Moderna vaccine be given as two doses 28 days apart. Although some adjustments are being made to these guidelines given vaccine supply shortages, the effectiveness of these vaccines when used with different dosing schedules is currently unknown.
We also have no evidence at this time of the effectiveness of using two different vaccines, although this is currently being evaluated. It is important to note that a single dose of either vaccine offers less protection than taking both doses. Current public health recommendations therefore are to take both doses of the same vaccine when it is available to you. More information will become available through further research.
Pfizer-BioNTech NEJM clinical trial
Moderna NEJM clinical trial
How Often Do We Need to Take the COVID-19 Vaccine, and How Long Does Immunity Last?
Currently, the two COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada are from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Based on the clinical trials, two doses are required for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine 21 days apart, and for the Moderna vaccine, two doses are required 28 days apart in order to achieve the quoted 95% effectiveness. Only receiving the first dose may result in significantly less protection. It is thus far unclear whether effectiveness will be maintained or reduced if the time period between both doses is increased. There are other vaccines in development which require only one dose, however these have not yet been approved for use in Canada.
We do not yet have enough evidence on how long immunity will last with these COVID-19 vaccines, or whether we will be required to have a new vaccine each year (as with the flu shot). More information will become available through ongoing research.
Pfizer-BioNTech NEJM clinical trial
Moderna NEJM clinical trial
Are the COVID-19 Vaccines Equally Effective in Ethnic/Racialized Populations?
Both the PFizer-BioNTech and Moderna research trials included ethnic and racialized populations in their studies. The Pfizer-BioNTech trial was conducted at 152 sites in the United States, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Germany and Turkey. The Moderna trial was conducted at 99 sites in the United States. The majority of participants in both trials were of White ethnicity (typically ~75-80%); however, the remainder of the participants were from various ethnic backgrounds including Hispanic/Latinx, Black or African American, Asian, and Native American.
It is important to remember that all persons, regardless of race or ethnicity, are 99.9% the same in terms of their genetic code, and observed differences in health outcomes of different racialized or ethnic groups are mostly related to underlying social determinants of health. Given that the research studies included ethnic and racialized peoples, there is no reason to believe that the vaccine will not be effective for these groups. We will learn more as research is conducted in this area and as millions of people from all ethnic backgrounds become vaccinated in the next coming months.
Pfizer-BioNTech NEJM clinical trial
Moderna NEJM clinical trial
After Getting the Full Vaccination Series, How Long Does it Take to Develop Immunity?
There are two ways to develop immunity to COVID-19.
Although a small portion of people may still get COVID-19 despite the vaccine, these persons will still benefit as they will likely not become as sick as they would have without the vaccine.
For the two currently approved vaccines in Canada (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna), it typically takes
a couple of weeks after the 2nd dose of the vaccination for the body to build immunity. This means it is still possible to develop COVID-19 just before or after vaccination. There will also be some individuals that are unable to get the vaccine until much later or due to their medical conditions. Therefore, even after getting the vaccine, it is important to maintain preventative measures (masks, hand hygiene, physical distancing, avoiding gatherings) in order to keep ourselves and these vulnerable groups safe.
Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines (CDC)
COVID-19 Infection: For those who contracted COVID-19 and survived, their body will develop natural immunity. This is felt to remain up to 7 months and beyond.
Vaccine: For those who are able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, their body will develop immunity to the vaccine. This usually occurs a couple of weeks after receiving the vaccination. We are unsure of exactly how long the immunity lasts because the trials had a short follow up time. However, studies are underway to try and determine how long the effects of the vaccine last for. It is possible that the vaccines may lead to long term immunity. It is also possible that we may need regular booster vaccinations in future as we do for other viruses, similar to the annual flu shot.
Does the Vaccine Only Protect Us From Symptoms or Complications of COVID-19 or Do They Reduce Transmission of the Virus As Well?
Previous studies show that vaccines not only help protect us from the effects of the virus but also reduce the likelihood of spreading it to others. While we believe this to be the case with the COVID-19 vaccines as well, this has not been proven yet. The clinical research trials were focused on making sure the vaccines were safe and effective in preventing people from becoming very sick, and preliminary data suggests that the COVID-19 vaccines are also effective in reducing transmission as well. This makes sense because if people do not get sick or develop symptoms, they are less likely to spread the virus to another person.
FDA – Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ
NEJM — Covid-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Should We Be Concerned About Long Term Side Effects with These Newly Approved COVID-19 Vaccines?
There is no current evidence that the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines cause long-term side effects. In the clinical trials, the participants were followed for upto 2 months after receiving the COVID-19 vaccines and the majority of side effects, if any, occur within the first six weeks. Follow-up studies will monitor for any long term or additional side effects as the vaccine is rolled out on a much larger scale in real-world settings. mRNA vaccines have been used for many years with excellent safety profiles and no significant long-term side effects to-date.
What Are the Ingredients of the COVID-19 Vaccines?
The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines include mRNA, fats, salts, sugar and water.
This mRNA is not the actual virus. It is a synthetically produced set of instructions to help your body recognize parts of the virus so that you can build antibodies and develop immunity against it.
30 mcg of a modified messenger RNA (modRNA) encoding the viral spike glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2
Fats help the mRNA to enter your cells .These are confirmed non-animal (plant or synthetic) fats that protect the mRNA so it doesn’t get broken down before it enters the cell and releases the mRNA.
0.43 mg ALC-0315 = (4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate)
0.05 mg ALC-0159 = 2[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide
0.09 mg 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3- phosphocholine
0.2 mg cholesterol
Salts help match the vaccine and to your own body’s salt makeup and composition.
Sugar keeps the vaccine stable while it is stored in the freezer
mRNA is not the actual virus. It is a synthetically produced set of instructions to help your body recognize parts of the virus so that you can build antibodies and develop immunity against it.
Fats help the mRNA to enter your cells. These are confirmed non-animal (plant or synthetic) fats that protect the mRNA so it doesn’t get broken down before it enters the cell and releases the mRNA.
Salts help match the vaccine to your own body’s salt balance and composition.
Sugar keeps the vaccine stable while it is stored in the freezer.
Water is used for the injection.
There is no aluminum, mercury, or any components of animal origin in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine: What you should know
Regulatory approval of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19
0.01 mg potassium chloride
0.01 mg monobasic potassium
mg sodium chloride
0.07 mg dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate
What Specific Ingredient(s) in the COVID-19 Vaccines are Allergenic?
Individuals can be allergic to any ingredient or component of any vaccine and this may not be known until one receives the vaccine. With the recently approved COVID-19 vaccines, initial reports suggest that allergic reactions seem to occur due to one particular compound, polyethylene glycol (PEG) or 2[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide. This is a fat commonly used in other vaccines and is widely used in cosmetics, medications (e.g. cough syrups, laxatives) and food. There may be additional components within the vaccines that may cause allergic reactions. For this reason, people with allergies to any of the ingredients of the COVID-19 vaccines should not receive them.
Severe allergic reactions are quite rare, and when they do occur, 70% of them take place within 10-15 minutes of vaccination. For this reason, patients are monitored for at least 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine and immunization clinics are well equipped to be able to safely treat any individual experiencing an allergic reaction.
Do the COVID-19 Vaccines Affect our DNA?
The approved Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are mRNA vaccines. These vaccines work by entering our cells and releasing mRNA, which contains the recipe to produce part of the coronavirus’ surface spike protein. Our immune system recognizes these newly made proteins (that have no potential to cause illness themselves) as foreign, and then trains our “fighter cells” or antibodies to attack the virus if we encounter it in the future. Once our cells have finished using the mRNA’s instructions, the mRNA disintegrates.
mRNA vaccines have been successfully used for several years in the treatment of cancers and other infectious diseases with no significant long-term safety concerns to-date. It is important to recognize that mRNA does not enter the nucleus of our cells, where our DNA is stored so there is no risk to our DNA from these mRNA vaccines.
What Are All the Side Effects Associated With the COVID-19 Vaccines?
Based on clinical trials where each vaccine has been tested in tens of thousands of patients, we can get a good sense of what side effects or responses can be expected. However, when any treatment is rolled out on such a large scale across populations, there are expected to be a small number of rare side effects which may only become apparent later. Based on the trial data available for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, side effects that may be experienced are expected to be mild or moderate in severity, and at most for a few days. These are mostly expected responses as your immune system develops antibodies to help protect you.
The possible side effects may not occur in everyone, and can be split into two main types: local or systemic.
Local side effects are those that are related to the injection site. The most common local side effect is discomfort or pain at the injection site, which is typically mild or moderate in severity and resolves within 1-2 days in most cases. Other less common local side effects include redness, swelling and underarm swelling, and these typically resolve within 3-5 days.
There has been a lot of concern regarding specific side effects, including:
Systemic side effects may include fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, joint pains, nausea and vomiting, or chills. These side effects occur more commonly after the second dose and typically resolve within a few days. Similar reactions may also be seen with other vaccines including the flu and shingles vaccines.
Anaphylaxis: please see separate question for a detailed answer regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis.
Bell’s Palsy (facial paralysis on one side): in the Moderna trial, 4 individuals (3 in the vaccine arm, 1 in placebo) out of 30,420 developed facial weakness or paralysis. In the Pfizer trial, four (all in the vaccine arm of the trial) out of 43,448 participants developed facial paralysis, or Bell’s palsy. Bell’s palsy is a relatively common condition and occurs in approximately 1 out of every 10,000 persons. This is the same rate that was seen in both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine research trials. As such, it is unlikely that the COVID-19 vaccines cause an increased risk of Bell’s palsy above what is already seen in the general population. More information will become available as research is ongoing.
Fertility: Based on our current knowledge and previous experience with mRNA vaccines, there is no evidence to suggest that the approved mRNA COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility.
NACI - Recommendations on the Use of COVID-19 Vaccines
Pfizer-BioNTech NEJM clinical trial
Moderna NEJM clinical trial
Fainting: there have been some rare but widely publicized reports of individuals fainting after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Further investigations revealed that most of these individuals fainted due to a previous underlying health condition or as part of a vasovagal response, and not due to the COVID-19 vaccine. A vasovagal response is where someone briefly becomes light-headed, pale and sweaty as their blood pressure and heart rate drop suddenly, similar to how some persons feel light-headed when they see a needle or blood.
Are There Animal Products or Haram Ingredients in the COVID-19 Vaccines and are they Islamically Permissible?
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are both mRNA vaccines that DO NOT contain any animal products (including pork) or Haram ingredients.
Multiple Islamic fiqh authorities, fatwa-issuing bodies and Muslim medical associations, including the Muslim Medical Association of Canada and the Canadian Council of Imams, have taken the position that
these vaccines are permissible and Halal.
Vaccines are medicines that prevent illness and save lives, making them congruent with the main objectives of the Islamic Sharia. Canadian Muslims should therefore consider it a duty and obligation to protect themselves, their families and their community. The vaccines are already being recommended by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, and will likely become a requirement in the near future.
Will COVID-19 Vaccines be Mandatory for Hajj or Umrah?
The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health (MOH) currently requires pilgrims wishing to obtain an Entry Visa for Hajj and Umrah to receive several vaccines, depending on the traveller’s country of origin. Canadians are currently required to provide evidence of recent vaccination against meningococcal meningitis.
As of January 6, 2021, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has recommended Muslims planning to perform Umrah receive the COVID-19 vaccines beforehand. It is likely that this may become a requirement before Hajj and Umrah are restored to full capacity. More information is expected in the coming months, as different vaccines are being rolled out across the world on different timeframes.
Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia’s Hajj, Umrah minister advises pilgrims to get vaccinated
If COVID-19 and All Causes of Death Come from Allah, How Do We as Muslims Trust Man-made Things Like Vaccines?
When it comes to our worldly existence, Allah (SWT) has asked us to search for our needs on this earth. It is our belief that decree and destiny is from the Almighty and His decision is final. But, we have been given willpower and choices which allow us to seek out khair and good and at the same time, protect ourselves from harm. Imam Ibn al-Qayyim (Rahimullah) says we have to live in this world with balance. We cannot fully rely upon the sabab (means) and we cannot fully rely only on Allah (SWT) without doing any actions. We have to strike that balance.
This means that we should take medications and treatments that we know are beneficial through experience, scientific evidence and education. However, we must turn to Allah the Almighty and pray for the shifa and healing to work. We therefore strike the balance by adopting the means and connecting with the Almighty for trust and strength at the same time.