July 13, 2021 | Dhu’l-Hijjah 3, 1442 AH
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Abundant Peace, Blessings and Salutations upon the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ
Key Vaccine Updates
Vaccinations across Canada are going very well and we are currently leading the world in vaccine coverage. Almost 70% of Canadians are partially vaccinated with one dose and over 35% are fully vaccinated with two doses.
The Pfizer and Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are now the preferred vaccines in Canada due to concerns around blood clots (VIPIT) and supply issues associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, and current quality control issues with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
NACI has approved ‘mixing’ vaccines for Canadians getting their second dose, with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
While life appears to be returning to normal, remember that the pandemic will not be over until it is over everywhere and a significant majority of the world has been vaccinated. Presently, only 1% of people in low-income countries have received at least 1 dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Continued vaccination has allowed us to protect as many people as possible, especially the most vulnerable amongst us. Community organizations and mosques have made significant contributions towards successful vaccination campaigns by hosting pop-up clinics and keeping their members and communities informed.
The Delta variant continues to take hold throughout the world as it mainly targets unvaccinated and partially vaccinated individuals. It is therefore critical to fully vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible as the number of cases fall. This will help ensure that if there is a fourth wave, it will be smaller with less sick individuals than in previous waves, and may hopefully avoid the need to reintroduce strict restrictions and lockdowns.
In Canada, we are fortunate to have several options for vaccines despite supply interruptions. We continue to follow the vaccination uptake and spread of variants across the world so that we are able to learn from the experiences of others, identify safety signals and take proactive action.
Booking vaccine appointments can be a challenge. There have been accessibility and logistical issues with booking appointments online or on the phone. Appointments are now more widely available at mass vaccination centres, community popup clinics, health centres and pharmacies.
If you have difficulty in booking a vaccine appointment, please ask your family members, friends, healthcare providers or local public health authority for assistance. There are also community organizations that can help book your appointment and arrange transportation or a mobile clinic visit to your home.
Second COVID-19 Vaccine Doses
A second dose is necessary to ensure you are fully protected from developing severe COVID-19. You are maximally protected from 2 weeks after your second dose. With increased vaccine availability, many people are eligible to receive their second dose sooner than initially scheduled. If you receive an earlier appointment for your second dose, remember to cancel your originally scheduled appointment by contacting the vaccination clinic or local public health authority, to make space for others.
You may experience symptoms such as sore arm, fever, fatigue, headache or body aches after your second dose. This is an expected response of your immune system and should not last more than a few days. Simple pain medicines like Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen) can effectively reduce these symptoms.
As COVID-19 cases continue to drop, we must remain vigilant. Despite vaccination, you can still get infected with the virus responsible for COVID-19. The purpose of the vaccine is to reduce the severity of any COVID-19 related illness. Most vaccinated patients who become infected may have none or only mild COVID-19 symptoms, similar to a cold. The purpose of masks and physical distancing is to minimize the spread of infection. This is why despite being fully vaccinated, it is important to continue following mask and physical distancing bylaws, stay within gathering limits, and get tested if you experience any symptoms.
Since community vaccination rates are used as metrics to facilitate reopening, the sooner everyone gets vaccinated, the sooner our society, economy, schools and institutions can reopen safely.
Mixing COVID-19 Vaccines
Mixing doses of similar vaccines from different manufacturers, e.g. receiving the first dose as Pfizer and the second dose as Moderna, is not a new concept and should still provide strong protection. Scientifically, this also makes sense as our body is taught to recognize almost identical proteins on the virus and develop similar antibodies, regardless of which vaccine is given. Mixing vaccines may be necessary due to manufacturer supply issues, as we try to maximally protect as many people as possible before variants spread widely.
If your first vaccine dose was AstraZeneca, it is preferable to receive either the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccine for your second dose. Receiving AstraZeneca again for the second dose will still provide strong protection.
Time Between Doses
These are the minimum recommended time periods to wait before your second dose, if your first dose was:
Pfizer 3 weeks
Moderna 4 weeks
AstraZeneca 4 weeks
There is some evidence for delaying your second dose a few weeks more than the minimum to develop a stronger ‘booster effect.’ However, this comes at the risk of delaying maximal protection and the potential for COVID-19 illness while only partially vaccinated. If you live in a region with high case counts or have high risk health conditions or exposures, it is better to get your second shot as soon as you are eligible. If you live in an area with low case counts and do not have any high-risk conditions or exposures, you may delay your shot within reason.
Information is quickly changing in this pandemic, and as we learn more, recommendations and guidelines may change or be updated. Detailed official information regarding the COVID-19 vaccines is available from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).