COVID Corner | The Ismaili Canada
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COVID Corner

The COVID Corner is the Jamat's easily accessible page for information relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. As updated information is received, it will be made available to the Jamat on this page. Please check back regularly for the most up-to-date COVID-19 related content. 

 

General Information About Vaccines

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Free vaccines for COVID-19 will be available to everyone who lives in Canada over the course of 2021. Based on the Talika received by Mawlana Hazar Imam on March 18, 2021, the Jamat is encouraged to benefit from the protection these vaccines provide, as Mawlana Hazar Imam has already done. In particular, the Jamat should not give credence to any misinformation regarding the vaccination process, and comparisons between the different officially sanctioned vaccines that are now available.

 

To help support the Jamat with the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, we have compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions regarding the vaccine. This information has been prepared by a multidisciplinary team including specialists in medicine, nursing, pharmacy and public health.

Vaccinations - Frequently Asked Questions
Who can receive the vaccine?

Everyone in Canada, including those who aren’t citizens (e.g. migrant workers) can receive the vaccine free of charge if they are over the age of 16 for the Pfizer vaccine, over 18 for the Moderna vaccine, and over 55 for the AstraZeneca vaccine, unless the vaccine is contraindicated (i.e. the person has a proven severe allergic reaction to an ingredient of the vaccine or its packaging).

When can I receive my vaccine?

Canada is expected to have enough vaccines to vaccinate all Canadians by the fall of 2021. Until there’s enough vaccine for everyone in Canada, initial vaccine doses will be prioritized for those at the highest risk of infection and severe disease, as well as those needed to keep society running. The national recommendations for these priority groups are outlined in the three stages below.[1] The time at which the below priority populations will receive the vaccine may differ between provinces and territories because of differences in local disease patterns and logistics.

 

Stage 1:

  • Residents and staff of congregate living settings that provide care for seniors (e.g. retirement homes)
  • Adults 70 years of age and older, beginning with adults 80 years of age and older, and then decreasing the age limit by 5-year increments to age 70 years as supply becomes available
  • Health care workers who have direct contact with patients, including those who work in health care settings and personal support workers
  • Adults in Indigenous communities

 

Stage 2 (as vaccine supply increases and people in Stage 1 have been offered vaccines, vaccines will be offered to):

  • Adults in or from Indigenous communities not included in stage 1, including those in urban settings
  • Residents and staff of all shared living settings (e.g. housing for migrant workers, shelters, group homes)
  • Adults 60 years of age and older, beginning with adults 65 years of age and older, then decreasing the age limit to 60 years
  • Adults in racialized and marginalized communities
  • First responders (e.g. police, firefighters)
  • Frontline essential workers who can’t work virtually and have direct close physical contact with the public (e.g. grocery store staff, transportation workers, rotational workers, food production or manufacturing workers, teachers and school or childcare staff not working virtually, postal services, border services)
  • Essential primary caregivers for people who can’t care for themselves and are at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 due to advanced age

 

Stage 3 (as vaccine supply increases and people in Stages 1 and 2 have been offered vaccines, vaccines will be offered to):

  • People 16 to 59 years of age with an underlying medical condition who are at high risk of severe illness due to COVID-19 (and their essential primary caregiver)
  • Adults 50 years of age and older, beginning with adults 55 years of age and older then decreasing the age limit to 50 years
  • Non-frontline healthcare workers needed to maintain healthcare capacity
  • Non-frontline essential workers
Are the vaccines effective?

All COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in Canada help reduce severe disease, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19.

Based on studies in about 44,000 participants, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was 95% efficacious in preventing COVID-19 disease. Based on studies in about 30,000 patients, the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine was 94% efficacious in preventing COVID-19 disease. [2] Based on studies in about 11,000 patients enrolled in clinical trials, the AstraZeneca vaccine was 62% efficacious in those 18-64 years of age [2].  In adults 65 years of age and older who received one dose of AstraZeneca vaccine in the real world setting in the United Kingdom, vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 disease and hospitalization appears to reach a comparable level to that observed in clinical trials for those 18-64 years of age. [2,3] It will take about 1-2 weeks after receiving a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to develop protection against COVID-19 disease.

It is important to note that the levels of protection offered by these vaccines cannot be directly compared, because of differences in clinical trial designs and circumstances.  The term “efficacy” refers to the degree of protection in a clinical trial setting, which is well-controlled.  The term “effectiveness” refers to the degree of protection in a real-world setting, which is not as well-controlled.

 

Should I still wear a mask after getting the vaccine?

Yes. The vaccines are effective in preventing COVID-19 disease, but it is still unknown whether they prevent infection. So, you may still be able to spread infection to others even after you are vaccinated. Also, the evidence on how long protection from the vaccines lasts is still being collected. There is evidence that wearing a mask, physically distancing, and handwashing are effective in protecting against COVID-19 infection, so you should continue to do these things even after getting the vaccine to protect yourself and those around you.[2]

How are the vaccines given?

The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines are given by injection (0.3-0.5 mL) into the muscle of the arm. 

Is one dose of the vaccine enough?

At this time, the national recommendation is to complete a COVID-19 vaccine series with two doses of the same vaccine product.[3] In the clinical trials, two doses were provided 3 weeks apart for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, 4 weeks apart for the Moderna vaccine vaccine and up to 12 weeks apart for the AstraZeneca vaccine. However, because vaccine supply is limited, the second dose in the vaccine series may be delayed up to four months in order to provide more protection for more people with a single dose. Evidence has shown that these vaccines are highly protective even with just one dose.[4] Studies are ongoing to determine if one dose is enough, and how long the protection from one or two doses lasts. The recommendations on the number of doses required and the interval between doses may change as the results of these studies become available. Until then, a second dose is recommended, though it may be delayed.

Are the vaccines safe/what are possible side effects?

Health Canada has conducted a rigorous scientific review of the available medical evidence to assess the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is an independent scientific advisory group of experts that also reviews all of the evidence and makes the recommendations on the use of COVID-19 vaccines.[3] These COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Groundwork for a safe and effective vaccine had already been laid after the first SARS coronavirus outbreaks in 2002-2004 and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus outbreaks in recent years.[4] Canada is recognized around the world for its high standards in reviewing, approving, and monitoring medications and vaccines. These high standards have not been compromised for the COVID-19 vaccines. 

 

The side effects that followed COVID-19 vaccine administration in clinical trials were mild or moderate and went away within 1-2 days. These included things like pain at the site of injection, body chills, joint pain, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, feeling tired and feeling feverish.[3]  If you experience these side effects, you can put a cold compress on the injection site and move your arm around to reduce pain and swelling, rest, drink fluids, and take acetaminophen or ibuprofen AFTER vaccination.

 

The Ismaili Imamat and its institutions have a long history of supporting and promoting vaccination to improve health. In 1897, Imam Sultan Muhammed Shah played a major role in stopping the spread of Bubonic Plague in Bombay. He was immunized in front of a large crowd to show people that vaccinations are nothing to be afraid of. To this day, educating people about vaccination is an important part of the work of The Aga Khan Health Services and The Aga Khan Health Boards. 

What about children?

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been authorized for individuals ages 16 and up. Moderna’s vaccine and AstraZeneca’s vaccine are currently authorized for ages 18 and up. These companies have begun clinical trials for younger children and adolescents. It is hoped that vaccines will be available for all children and young teenagers in late 2021. 

 

Children, in general, are not at an increased risk of severe disease if infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.  However, children or adolescents with certain underlying medical conditions (e.g. Down’s Syndrome, diabetes) may be at an increased risk of severe COVID-19 disease.  The original Pfizer-BioNTech clinical trials included some individuals aged 12-15 years of age, so there is some evidence of the safety and efficacy of this vaccine in this age group.  Therefore, this vaccine may be given to those 12-15 years of age who are at very high risk of severe COVID-19 disease (e.g. due to a medical condition) who are at an increased risk of exposure to the virus (e.g. living in a group home).[3]

What if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?

People who were pregnant were not included in the clinical trials on the COVID-19 vaccines.  However, some participants in the clinical trials became pregnant during the trial, and these individuals are being monitored to determine how safe and effective the vaccines are for the pregnant individual as well as the baby.  Animal studies are also being conducted to determine the safety of the vaccine for reproduction and fetal development.  To date, no safety concerns have been identified.  Some pregnant individuals are at increased risk of severe COVID-19 that could result in hospitalization and other poor outcomes. Therefore, people who are pregnant may wish to discuss the decision to get the vaccine with their treating healthcare provider based on their own situation.[3] People who were breastfeeding were not included in the clinical trials on the COVID-19 vaccines.  COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are not live vaccines and, based on their biologic mechanism, mRNA vaccines are not hypothesized to be a risk to breastfeeding infants. Individuals who are breastfeeding may also wish to speak with their doctor about COVID-19 vaccination.[5]

Is it safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine if I have an underlying condition?

Yes. The authorized vaccines are similarly safe and efficacious in those with one or more underlying conditions (for example, body mass index ≥30 kg/m2, chronic pulmonary disease, diabetes mellitus, cardiac disease).[3] Also, since those with underlying conditions are more susceptible to severe COVID-19 disease, they benefit most from protection against the disease offered by vaccines.

What if I have a history of severe allergy (e.g. anaphylaxis)?

Individuals with common allergies to medications, foods, inhalants, venoms, and latex are no more likely than the general public to have an allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccines.[3] People with severe allergies (e.g. anaphylaxis) to an ingredient in a given COVID-19 vaccine should not receive it. These cases are rare. If you are a person who has a history of severe allergic reactions (e.g. if you carry an epinephrine auto injector), speak with your health professional before receiving the vaccine. 

 

The list of ingredients for each vaccine is available at the links below:

Pfizer-BioNTech

Moderna

AstraZeneca 

 

The potential non-medicinal ingredients in the vaccines known to cause allergic reactions (ranging from mild skin reactions to severe anaphylactic reactions) are as follows [3]*. If you are a person who has a history of severe allergic reactions (e.g. if you carry an epinephrine auto injector), speak with your health professional before receiving the vaccine:

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19

  • Polyethylene glycol (PEG), which is also found in over the counter products (e.g., cough syrup, laxatives), prescription medications, medical bowel preparation products for colonoscopy, skin care products, dermal fillers, cosmetics, contact lens care solutions, and products such as ultrasound gel.

Moderna COVID-19

  • PEG, which is also found in over the counter products (e.g., cough syrup, laxatives), prescription medications, medical bowel preparation products for colonoscopy, skin care products, dermal fillers, cosmetics, contact lens care solutions, and products such as ultrasound gel.

  • Tromethamine (trometamol or Tris), which is also found in contrast media, oral and intravenous medications.

AstraZeneca COVID-19

  • Polysorbate 80, which is also found in medical preparations (e.g., vitamin oils, tablets, and anticancer agents), and cosmetics.

 *This may not be a complete list

Should I get vaccinated if I have symptoms of COVID-19?

While there is no known detrimental effect to vaccination of individuals who may be currently infected with COVID-19, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, an independent scientific advisory group of experts, recommends waiting to receive the vaccine until after symptoms of COVID-19 have resolved.[3] This is because it is important to monitor for potential adverse events from the COVID-19 vaccine without potential confounding from symptoms of COVID-19 or other co-existing illnesses. It is also important to wait until your symptoms have resolved and your isolation period is over so you don't trasnit the infection to others. 

How do I get my COVID-19 vaccine once I am eligible?

COVID-19 vaccines are currently being delivered to the high-risk groups listed under the FAQ “When can I receive my vaccine?”. However, as supplies increase, vaccines will be made available to all Canadians in municipally-run vaccination sites, mobile vaccination sites, pharmacies, clinics and primary care settings. Most of these venues will have online or telephone booking for the vaccine in advance. You can expect to be greeted by a healthcare professional when you arrive who will check your ID or health card, go over a consent form and gather basic health information. You would then receive your vaccination (often performed by a nurse), and can return home after the standard 15-minute monitoring period. Some centers confirm a booking for the second vaccine dose to facilitate scheduling, at which time one would return for the second and final dose. The appointment for the second dose may need to be rescheduled depending on vaccine supply.

Should I get a vaccine if I have already had COVID-19 and recovered?

Yes. Receiving a vaccine after you have already had COVID-19 can help to prevent a second COVID-19 infection, which has been reported in several cases. Although some areas with limited vaccine supply may first vaccinate those who have not had confirmed COVID-19 infection previously, the vaccine can and should be administered to people who have had COVID-19.[3] There is no known detrimental effect to vaccination of individuals who have previously had COVID-19.  

I can get natural immunity to COVID-19. Why should I get a vaccine?

Getting COVID-19 might offer some natural protection. Current research suggests that reinfection with COVID-19 is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection. However, experts don’t know for certain how long this protection lasts, and the risks of death, severe illness or long-term lingering symptoms from COVID-19 far outweighs any benefits of natural immunity. COVID-19 vaccination will help protect you by creating an antibody response from your immune system without having to experience COVID-19 sickness.[7]

Is the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as effective and safe as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines?

The best vaccine is the vaccine that is available to you. All COVID-19 vaccines authorized by Health Canada will contribute to reducing severe COVID-19 illness and death in Canada

 

At this time, the Canadian National Advisory Committee on Immunization has recommended that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine should only be considered for adults over 55 years of age while the safety signal for a rare condition called Vaccine-Induced Prothrombotic Immune Thrombocytopenia (VIPIT) following vaccination with AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in younger individuals is investigated further. This adverse event has not been identified following receipt of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines to date (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna).[10]

 

The rate of this adverse event is still to be confirmed. Based on information from the European Medicines Agency on March 18, 2021 it was originally estimated at approximately 1 per 1,000,000 people vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, however a higher rate of 1 per 100,000 was reported by the Paul-Ehrlich Institut in Germany.[10]

 

Adults 55 years of age and older may still be offered the AstraZeneca vaccine with informed consent, given the increased risk of hospitalization and death due to COVID-19 disease in this population and since VIPIT appears to be a rarer event in that age group.

 

Canada is expected to receive sufficient mRNA COVID-19 vaccines to fully vaccinate the population with two doses of mRNA vaccine before fall 2021. AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine was expected to make up a small proportion of the COVID-19 vaccines available for use in Canada; therefore, COVID-19 vaccinations will not be significantly delayed without using AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in younger adults. [10]

What should I do before and after my immunization appointment?

Recommendations before your immunization appointment:

  • Wear a short-sleeve shirt
  • Eat and drink water before your appointment
  • Wear your mask
  • Bring required ID (e.g. Health card)
  • Bring your immunization record and/or download the CANImmunize app to keep track of your doses
  • Tell the provider if you have felt faint with other procedures – they may ask you to lie down

 

Recommendations for after your immunization appointment:

  • Wait 15 minutes, or 30 minutes if there are concerns about severe allergic reactions. If you are feeling unwell – inform a health care provider
  • Call 911 if you develop serious symptoms, like an allergic reaction. This can include: hives, swelling of face/tongue/throat, or difficulty breathing
  • Call your healthcare provider or clinic if feeling unwell when you go home
  • Drink water
  • Put a cold compress on the site of injection if you have swelling or pain
  • Take anti-fever or anti-pain medication if you need to for side effects
  • Schedule your 2nd dose
  • Keep following public health recommendations (e.g. wear a mask, physically distance, wash your hands, avoid international travel)
  • Wait 28 days before getting a non-COVID-19 vaccine
  • Wait 28 days before getting pregnant
What should I do if I have a fear of needles?

It is normal to have a fear of needles – this can be common in both children and adults. In some people, the fear of needles can be excessive and may prevent them from getting vaccinations done. To help support Jamati members who might have a fear of needles, a list of strategies is available here.

Where can I find COVID-19 information and resources in other languages?

Please visit the following links to access COVID-19 information in different languages:

Multilingual Resource Websites:

  1. Government of Canada COVID-19 Awareness Resources (Arabic, French, Farsi, Urdu, Tamil and more)
  2. Public Health Ontario Multilingual COVID-19 Resources (French, Gujarati, Hindi, Tamil, Urdu and more)
  3. COVID-19 Resources from the Canadian Muslim COVID-19 Task Force (Arabic, Farsi, French, Gujarati, Turkish, Urdu and more)
  4. COVID-19 Resources from the Immigrant Education Society (Arabic, Farsi, French, Hindi, Tamil, Urdu and more)
  5. COVID-19 Myths Answered from the British Islamic Medical Association (Arabic, French, Gujarati, Tamil, Urdu, Kurdish and more)
  6. Multilingual Information on COVID-19 Vaccinations from City of Toronto (French, Gujarati, Dari, Arabic, Urdu, Hindi)
  7. Alberta International Medical Graduates Association COVID-19 Video Resources (Arabic, Hindi, Urdu and more)

Urdu Resources:

  1. COVID-19 Factsheet from the Government of Alberta
  2. What is COVID-19? (video)
  3. How to Prevent COVID-19? (video)
  4. Signs and symptoms of COVID-19? (video)
  5. How do I protect myself from COVID-19? (video)
  6. Enhanced public health measures in Alberta as of November 24th (video)

 

Gujarati Resources: 

  1. COVID-19 Myths Answered from the British Islamic Medical Association 
  2. COVID-19 Vaccine Information from City of Toronto

 

Farsi Resources:

  1. What is COVID-19? (video)
  2. What is Physical Distancing and why is it important? (video)
  3. When to seek medical treatment? (video)

Disclaimer: The content provided here is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment related to COVID-19, or any other medical condition. Always consult your physician or other health care provider before making any health care decisions related to COVID-19 or any other medical condition to better understand the risks related to prevention and treatment. 

The Ismaili

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49 Wynford Drive Toronto, Ontario M3C 1K1 CANADA

Tel: +1-416-646-6965

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