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 worldwide.
By Using a dead, weakened or part of the germ, our body’s immune system is trained to recognise the germs to prevent disease effectively, 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 had been simultaneously developing vaccines for COVID-19 using different technologies. Each candidate vaccine had undergone 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 vaccines so far have reassuringly shown very high effectiveness in people of different ages from many countries.
The first COVID-19 vaccine (Astra Zeneca) was authorised on October 9, Pfizer BioNTech on October 14. The COVID-19 vaccines are free for all Australians, and proof of immunisation is being issued for interstate travels and international travels.
Although timelines may change, 80% of Australians are expected to 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 Australian Muslims to get the COVID-19 Vaccine as Possible?
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forever disrupted our lives. Many Australian Muslims identify as South Asian, middle eastern or African, and such racialised 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 disease from communities when we vaccinate as many people as possible to allow us to keep the most vulnerable members of our society safe.
What Does Islam Teach Us About Health, Seeking Treatment, and How Does it Relate to COVID-19 Vaccines?
Narrated Abu Huraira (r): The Prophet (s) 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 (s) 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, the 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 approved vaccines went through the rigorous process of ensuring all steps were executed and effective, safe and of high quality.
What Are the Different COVID-19 Vaccines Under Consideration and Are They Halal or Permissible?
As of now, 3 COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer BioNTech, Astra Zeneca and Moderna) have been approved by the regulatory body, Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in Australia.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was proudly co-developed by Turkish origin Muslim scientists.
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 various Ulema bodies in Australia and other parts of the world.
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, Astra Zeneca Oxford 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.
Astra Zeneca vaccine can lead to Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), which is a rare event, roughly one case per one million shots, involving serious blood clots with a low blood platelet count. It is triggered by the immune system’s response to the AstraZeneca vaccine and is different from other clotting conditions.
What Happens After I Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine?
Even if you receive the vaccine, you need to continue keeping up with all the safety measures of distancing, wearing a mask, washing hands, getting tested and isolating if you have symptoms. It will take time for all Australasians to be vaccinated.
The situation will not change overnight. The sooner 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?
Many conspiracy theories are being circulated related to 5G networks, Bill Gates, microchips and governments trying to control citizens or take over the world. None of these is substantiated, technologically possible or realistic.
Narrated Abu Huraira(r): The Prophet (s) 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), 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).
Is the COVID vaccine safe for Pregnant Women?
Pregnancy is a high-risk state for COVID-19 infection.
It is reassuring to know that Pregnant women are no more likely to get COVID-19 than nonpregnant women. Most have no symptoms or mild symptoms; some women can become very sick with increased ICU admission particularly in 3rd Trimester. Recent studies have shown the risk of babies born prematurely, an increased rate of Caesarean section, and a small risk of still birth.
Having the vaccine protects the mother from getting so sick and protects baby from Prematurity and Stillbirth.
RANZCOG and ATAGI have decided it is safe to offer vaccines to pregnant women, postpartum, breastfeeding and those considering getting pregnant or fertility treatment. This is based on robust data from the USA where 90000 pregnant women have been vaccinated with Pfizer or Modena mRNA. With no safety concerns.
Data have shown evidence of antibodies in cord blood and breast milk offer protection to infants through passive immunity. It remains important to pay attention to social distancing and other hygienic measures.
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 outweigh some of these valid concerns.
With the emergence of the delta variant, COVID-19 is not any more old age disease, children in their teens are getting infective, and young, healthy individuals in their twenties and thirties are tragically dying from this disease.
Given the above, we recommend all eligible Australian Muslims receive the COVID-19 vaccines. If you have questions or concerns related to your medical history, please discuss these with your health provider.
AIMA COVID-19 Vaccine Awareness Committee