December 17, 2020 | Jumada Al-Awwal 2, 1442 AH
Bismillah hirRahman nirRaheem
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
Abundant Peace, Blessings and Salutations upon the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ
Introduction to 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. While no shortages are expected, the vaccine will be in limited quantities and therefore eligible groups will be prioritized by provincial governments. The vaccines will be distributed initially to regions with higher rates of COVID-19, long-term care residents and staff, the elderly, front line healthcare workers and some Indigenous adults. These priority groups will likely receive the first available batch of doses by the end of March 2021. Although timelines may change, 50% of Canadians can expect to be vaccinated by next summer and all Canadians should be vaccinated by the end of 2021. There are already established safety net government programs that continuously monitor for short and long-term effects of all vaccines, and additional patient support programs have been announced.
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 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 Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA) and/or the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA). 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.
What Does Islam Teach Us About Health, Seeking Treatment and How Does it Relate to COVID-19 Vaccines?
Narrated Abu Huraira (R. A.): The Prophet ﷺ said, "There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its treatment." (Sahih al-Bukhari : Vol. 7, Book 71, Hadith 582). Amr bin Shu'ayb reports…....the Prophet ﷺ said: "Whoever practices medicine (by giving out medical advice) yet medicine is not known from him, then he is a guarantor." (Narrated by Abu Dawood and An- Nasaa'i).
How Were the COVID-19 Vaccines Made So Quickly?
Through an unprecedented collaborative effort between scientists, pharmaceutical companies and governments, development of these COVID-19 vaccines were given top priority since March 2020 with heavy funding to build on decades of previous foundational coronavirus research, removal of administrative barriers and running parts of clinical trials in parallel. All vaccines being considered for approval will still go through the rigorous process of ensuring all steps were executed and that they are effective, safe and high quality.
What Are the Different COVID-19 Vaccines Under Consideration and Are They Halal or Permissible?
As of now, there are 4 COVID-19 vaccines that have been submitted to Health Canada for approval by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca-Oxford and Janssen, with more to come. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was proudly co-developed by Turkish Muslim scientists and has already received approval, while the Moderna vaccine is likely to be approved in the near future. After evaluating the benefits, risks and various considerations related to the different technologies used to develop these vaccines, they have been deemed permissible or recommended to be taken by AMJA.
Do the mRNA Vaccines Change Your DNA or Cause Genetic Mutations?
The mRNA based vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) do not enter the central part of your cells where your DNA is stored. As a result, there is no perceived risk of these vaccines causing changes to your DNA or genetic mutations. Although a newer technology, mRNA vaccines have been used effectively and safely over the past several years to treat cancer.
What Are the Side Effects of COVID-19 Vaccines?
Based on clinical trials where each vaccine has already been tested in 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, at most for a few days, and may include pain at the injection site, redness, swelling, fatigue, headache, joint pain or chills. These are expected responses as your immune system develops antibodies to help protect you.
What Happens After I Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine?
Even if you receive the vaccine, you need to continue keeping up all the safety measures of distancing, wearing a mask, washing hands, getting tested and isolating if you have symptoms, as it will take time for all Canadians to be vaccinated. The situation will not change overnight. The sooner that as many people as possible in the community are vaccinated, the sooner we can save lives and allow our schools, workplaces and society to reopen safely.
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 outweighs some of these valid concerns.
Given the above, we recommend all eligible Canadian Muslims to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine (tozinameran). If you have questions or concerns related to your medical history, please discuss these with your health provider.
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).
Canadian Muslim COVID-19 Task Force