COVID-19 VACCINE FAQs
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Download the CMCTF COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs as a PDF
Last Updated: March 25, 2021
Will the COVID-19 Vaccine be Mandatory?
Why Should We Take Vaccines?
Over the last 200 years, vaccines have eliminated smallpox, almost eradicated measles and polio, and prevented 25 other illnesses including infections and cancers that have killed millions around the world. By using a dead, weakened or part of the germ, our body’s immune system is trained to recognize the germs to effectively prevent disease, save lives and reduce the social and economic impact of these illnesses on communities.
What Do I Need to Know About the New COVID-19 Vaccines?
Over 100 research teams across the world have been simultaneously developing vaccines for COVID-19 using different technologies. Each candidate vaccine will go through rigorous trials to determine if it is safe and how well it protects from disease or infection. There will be expected differences in effectiveness, safety, how they are manufactured, transported and given to patients. The results of vaccine research trials so far have reassuringly shown very high effectiveness in people of different ages from many countries. The first COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer/BioNTech) was authorized on December 9, 2020 and the first Canadian received this vaccine on December 14, 2020. The COVID-19 vaccines will be free for all Canadians and proof of immunization will be issued. Canada has reserved millions of doses of different types of vaccines and in the coming months more will become approved.
Why is it Critical for as Many Canadian Muslims to get the COVID-19 Vaccine as Possible?
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forever disrupted our lives. Many Canadian Muslims identify as South Asian or Black, and such racialized community members are at higher risk of being exposed or getting sicker from COVID-19 as they are essential workers, have high-risk medical conditions, live in multi-generational homes or may live in dense and lower socioeconomic settings. Vaccines are most effective at removing a disease from communities when we vaccinate as many people as possible, to allow us to keep the most vulnerable members of our society safe.
How Many People Need to Be Vaccinated Before Our Community is Considered Adequately Protected from COVID-19?
Herd immunity is a state where either through natural infection or vaccination, enough of a community or population is protected. At this point, the infectious disease is less likely to be able to spread to an unprotected person and subsequently dies out. While at present we do not know the exact proportion of vaccinated people required to achieve herd immunity for COVID-19, scientists estimate this to be roughly 60-90% of the population.
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.
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)
Moderna (18 years or older)
AstraZeneca-Oxford/Covishield (18 years or older)
Janssen / Johnson & Johnson (18 years or older)
Children and adolescents not in the authorized age groups above
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.
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
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?
After I Get the COVID-19 Vaccine, Will I Test Positive for COVID-19 on a Viral Swab Test?
No. None of the authorized vaccines will cause you to have a positive COVID-19 swab test. If you test positive on a viral swab, it means that you are currently infected with the virus. If you are vaccinated, you may test positive on an antibody test, which checks to see if you have immunity or protection against the virus.
Where Were the COVID-19 Vaccines Tested?
Currently, the four COVID-19 vaccines approved by Health Canada are the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca-Oxford/Covishield and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
Were the COVID-19 Vaccines Tested on Animals?
Are Governments or Powerful Individuals Trying to Control Us by Giving Us this Vaccine?
There are many conspiracy theories being circulated related to 5G networks, Bill Gates, microchips and governments trying to control citizens or take over the world. None of these are substantiated, technologically possible or realistic. Narrated Abu Huraira(R. A.): The Prophet ﷺ said, "Beware of suspicion, for suspicion is the worst of false tales...and do not spy..." (Sahih al-Bukhari: Vol. 8, Book 73, Hadith 90). We should all seek and share information only from reliable sources. Al-Buhuti reported: Umar, (R. A.), said, “O Allah, show me the truth as truth and guide me to follow it. Show me the false as false and guide me to avoid it.” (Sharh al-Muntaha al-Iradat 3/497).
Do We Know Everything We Need to Know?
As with any new scientific discovery, medication or technology, there are many unanswered questions, including how effective these vaccines will be in reducing community transmission and how effective and safe they’ll be in the long run. Only time will tell how long immunity will last, and if we may need additional doses. Despite these unknowns and based on our knowledge so far, the benefits of taking the COVID-19 vaccines far outweighs some of these valid concerns.
Are Recommendations or Guidance Expected to Change?
Information is quickly changing in this pandemic, and as we learn more, recommendations and guidelines may change or be updated. Please stay informed using knowledgeable and trustworthy sources. Detailed official information regarding the COVID-19 vaccines is available from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).
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 March-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 will likely be required which can be made online or via telephone.
Are Non-Citizens and Non-Residents Eligible to Receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
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.
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 the first one that 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.
Can We Complete the COVID-19 Vaccine Series With Two Different Vaccines? (e.g. 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.
What Will the Vaccination Process Look Like?
REGISTER - Pre-register or register for your vaccination appointment(s). Have your health card or government issued ID and contact information (telephone number and/or email address) handy.
ATTEND - Attend your vaccination appointment(s) with your booking confirmation, proof of eligibility (if required) and identification documents, at your scheduled date(s) and time(s).
SCREENING - You will be screened to make sure you are feeling well with no significant symptoms and you may have to answer questions about your medical history. This is to ensure that it is safe for you to receive your vaccine as scheduled.
VACCINATION - You will receive the vaccine in your outer upper arm below your shoulder, so please make sure you wear loose clothing and dress accordingly.
MONITORING - You will have to wait for 15 minutes after your vaccination to make sure you do not have an immediate allergic reaction or response to the vaccine.
DOCUMENTATION - You will receive an information sheet regarding the COVID-19 vaccine you received and confirmation of your vaccination either as a physical printout and/or via email. Please keep this information safe for your records and future reference.
REPEAT - If your vaccine requires two doses, please remember to attend the appointment for your second vaccination dose.
How Often Do We Need to Take the COVID-19 Vaccine, and How Long Does Immunity Last?
Based on the clinical trials, the following doses are ideally required to achieve maximal protection:
Pfizer-BioNTech - 2 doses - 21 days (3 weeks) apart
Moderna - 2 doses - 28 days (4 weeks) apart
AstraZeneca-Oxford/Covishield - 2 doses - 4 to 12 weeks apart
Janssen/Johnson & Johnson - 1 dose only
Are the COVID-19 Vaccines Equally Effective in Ethnic/Racialized Populations?
All 4 of the PFizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca-Oxford/Covishield and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson 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 AstraZeneca-Oxford trials were initially conducted in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil and are currently being studied in other countries as well including the United States, India and several South American countries. The Janssen trial was conducted in the United States, South Africa and several South American countries. The majority of participants in the trials were of White ethnicity (typically ~70-80%); however, the remainder of the participants were from various ethnic backgrounds including Hispanic/Latinx, Black or African American, Asian, and Native American.
After Getting the Full Vaccination Series, How Long Does it Take to Develop Immunity?
There are two ways to develop immunity to COVID-19.
COVID-19 Infection: For those who contracted COVID-19 and survived, their body will develop natural immunity. This is felt to remain up to at least 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?
Are the COVID-19 Vaccines Effective Against the Different SARS-CoV-2 Variants of Concern?
New variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been identified throughout the pandemic and have been of little consequence. More recently, variants first identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil have raised concerns of being 50-70% more contagious and possibly cause more severe illness than the original strain within our communities. Depending on the variant and mutations involved, the available COVID-19 vaccines will likely still provide adequate protection, and emerging research thus far has demonstrated this as well. Fortunately, vaccine manufacturers have already begun updating their vaccines to effectively target these variants and will continue to do so as required. These developments are being closely monitored with more information and updates likely in the weeks and months ahead.
Is the AstraZeneca-Oxford Vaccine Effective in Persons Over Age 65 Years or with Chronic Medical Conditions?
Can I Get or Develop COVID-19 from the COVID-19 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 approved 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.
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.
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 technology, there is no evidence to suggest that the approved mRNA COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility.
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.
Should We Be Concerned About Long Term Side Effects with These COVID-19 Vaccines?
What Are the Ingredients of the COVID-19 Vaccines?
The ingredients of each COVID-19 are listed in the vaccine comparison table. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines include mRNA, fats, salts, sugar and water. The AstraZeneca-Oxford/Covishield and Janssen vaccines contain a tiny amount of adenovirus, polysorbate 80 and miniscule amounts of ethanol.
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.
The tiny amount of adenovirus, which cannot replicate in the body, is used to deliver part of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Polysorbate 80 is a synthetic compound that is used in food, cosmetics and medications as a stabilizer.
Ethanol, present in miniscule amounts less than that found in sliced bread or a banana, is used as a stabilizer.
Which Specific Ingredient(s) in the COVID-19 Vaccines are Allergenic?
Since the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines in North America, there have been some cases of anaphylaxis (a serious, life-threatening allergic reaction) associated with both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. A majority of these were seen in individuals with a previous history of severe allergies. This reaction may be due to the active mRNA part of the vaccine or the stabilizing components of the vaccine, such as polyethylene glycol (PEG) or lipids. PEG 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 and this may not be known until one receives the vaccine. For this reason, people with allergies to any of the ingredients of the COVID-19 vaccines should not receive them.
Do the COVID-19 Vaccines Affect Our DNA?
The 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.
Is the Vaccine Safe for Pregnant or Breastfeeding Women?
Most pregnant women with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms, however 8-11% will require admission to hospital. This is much higher than non-pregnant women in the same age group and for this reason, they have been deemed a priority vaccination group in some regions.
Should I Take Any Medications Before My Vaccine to Avoid Feeling Any Side Effects?
The short-term effects experienced after the COVID-19 vaccine varies from person to person, from not feeling anything at all to having a sore arm, feeling tired, body aches, feverish or nauseous. These are expected signs that signal that your immune system is working, typically do not require any treatment, last at most a couple of days and can be more significant after the second dose.
Who is More Likely to Experience Side Effects or Responses After the Vaccine?
How are Effects or Responses After the COVID-9 Vaccines Being Monitored, and How Can I Report Them?
If I Experience a Serious, Adverse Reaction to the COVID-19 Vaccine, Am I Entitled to Any Benefits, Support or Compensation?
Is it Safe to Take the COVID-19 Vaccine Around the Same Time as Another Vaccine?
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.
Are There Animal Products or Haram Ingredients in the COVID-19 Vaccines and Are They Islamically Permissible?
The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-Oxford/Covishield COVID-19 vaccines DO NOT contain any animal products (including pork) or Haram ingredients of significance.
Does Receiving a Vaccine While Fasting Break the Fast? Should I Delay an Appointment to Take the Vaccine Until I Find an Appointment That Will Be After Iftar?
If I Feel Unwell After the COVID-19 Vaccine, Can I Break My Fast?
Will COVID-19 Vaccines be Mandatory for Hajj or Umrah?
Why are Muslim Organizations 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.
How Will Decisions be Made Regarding COVID-19 Vaccines for Canadian Muslims?
Health Canada is an independent, reputable and trustworthy regulatory body that looks at the scientific evidence before deciding whether to approve or reject a new medicine. COVID-19 vaccines will only be approved if they are safe, effective, of good quality and the benefit to Canadians outweighs any risks. The short term and long term benefits and risks are weighed against each other, and compared to the risks of not approving or delaying the roll-out of these vaccines. In addition, this task force’s recommendations will take into account the manufacturing process and ingredients of the vaccines with regard to permissibility, with guidance from Canadian Muslim health, religious and community advisory groups and fataawa from North American fiqh bodies. As Canadian Muslims, we will also have the benefit of learning from our British and American Muslim COVID-19 task force partners, where the roll-out of the vaccines was earlier and on a larger scale.
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 our patients and community InshaAllah.