March 11, 2021 | Rajab 27, 1442 AH
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Abundant Peace, Blessings and Salutations upon the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ
The AstraZeneca-Oxford & Covishield COVID-19 Vaccines
These are the third COVID-19 vaccines to be approved by Health Canada. Both have the same formulation, were developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, and are deemed to be comparable. The vaccine consists of another virus which cannot copy itself, but contains the genes for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Our immune system recognizes the spike proteins and develops antibodies against the coronavirus virus. This approach has been previously used to develop vaccines against other infectious diseases such as Ebola.
The AstraZeneca-Oxford & Covishield COVID-19 vaccines are Halal and are recommended for all eligible Canadian Muslims. Please discuss specific questions or concerns related to your medical history with your healthcare provider.
Safety and Efficacy
This vaccine was tested in over 23,000 subjects across the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa in multiple randomized controlled trials with no safety concerns. Possible side effects are mild, short-lived, and may include pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, chills, joint pains, nausea, vomiting, or fever.
This vaccine cannot be compared directly with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. The vaccine’s quoted efficacy is 62% in preventing illness with symptoms. More importantly, it offers excellent protection from requiring hospitalization, and will therefore significantly reduce the burden of COVID-19 in our communities. There is also early evidence to suggest that it may cut virus transmission and protects against the B117 variant first identified in the UK. More studies are ongoing to determine its efficacy against other variants.
There are unanswered questions regarding the vaccine's efficacy in seniors (65 years and older), as the research trials for this vaccine did not include a significant number of persons from this age group. Federal agencies in Canada have therefore recommended this vaccine only for persons aged 18 to 64 years for now. As more countries are already administering this vaccine to individuals older than 65, recommendations for this age group may change with the rapid accumulation of real-world effectiveness data.
Timing Between Doses of the Vaccine
Two doses of the vaccine are required for maximal efficacy, approximately 4 to 12 weeks apart. The timing of the second dose is subject to change, depending on vaccine supplies. Recent studies have demonstrated that extending the time interval between doses to 12 weeks not only maintains protection, but may actually improve the vaccine’s efficacy.
Similar to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, this vaccine contains no animal ingredients. There are 0.002 grams of ethanol in the vaccine as an excipient - a tiny amount that is less than what is found in sliced bread or a banana. As with several other vaccines, the key protein in this vaccine is made in cell lines derived from human embryonic cells from several decades ago. There are no fetal or embryonic cells present in the final vaccine. The use of cell lines such as in the production of the rubella, hepatitis A and chickenpox vaccines, has been previously discussed by Muslim authorities and has been deemed acceptable. Thus far, this vaccine has been approved in 74 countries including many Muslim countries (e.g. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman and Sudan).
What Sets this Vaccine Apart?
Besides being a different vaccine development platform than the mRNA vaccines, the key advantage of this vaccine is that it can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerator conditions (2 to 8 degrees Celsius) for at least six months, and therefore easily given to patients within most healthcare settings. In addition, the longer interval of 12 weeks between doses allows a lot more people to receive their first dose sooner.
Which COVID-19 Vaccine Should You Get?
The CMCTF strongly recommends receiving the first approved COVID-19 vaccine available to you, as soon as you are eligible. The benefits of being vaccinated as soon as possible far outweigh any potential benefits of waiting or exercising one’s choice of vaccine.
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).