12 February 2021
As at: 12th February 2021 / 29 Jamad-Ul-Akhir 1442 – The information contained herein may change as additional information becomes available in a fluid situation relating to COVID-19.]
All praises belong to Allah (SWT), blessing and salutations upon our beloved Prophet Muhammed (SAW). We pray that this communication finds you in the best of health and Allah (SWT) continues to shower His protection and assistance to the Ummah at large.
The Islamic Medical Association of South Africa (IMASA) is a voluntary association of Muslim Health Professionals. In addition to the various projects that it implements, the IMASA has for over 40 years been advising the Muslim community in matters related to the health, ethics and education of the South African Ummah. The current medical challenge of our time is the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) commonly referred to as COVID-19. Similar to the changing
nature of the virus, medical evidence on mitigating the impact and the management of the condition is continuously evolving.
South Africa has reported approximately 1,475 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 to date with an estimated 46 180 deaths. COVID-19 has had an impact on every person’s daily life, irrespective of race, gender, religion, profession or social standing. We have had to change the way we work, teach and learn, shop, travel, pray and bury our loved ones. Hospitals and
healthcare workers have become overwhelmed with the sheer numbers of people requiring care. Similar to other communities, the Muslim community in South Africa has not been spared the impact of the virus. We all know of family members, community members that have been severely affected by the virus with negative consequences such as prolonged ill
health, hospitalisation and even death with number of people dying within a short space of time.
Data collected by Muslim-Stats indicate that mortality amongst Muslims is approximately 5% (2309) of the total South African mortality. This 5% confirmed deaths due to COVID-19 is likely an under-representation since many people are not hospitalised and dying at home without diagnosis. The impact of the second wave has been more severe with a rapid increase in mortality.
Over the past year, South Africa like other countries has implemented a number of the environmental and individual measures as part of a risk mitigated strategy that included amongst others locks-downs, travel restrictions, social distancing, restricting social gatherings amongst others to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. At an individual level, this involved wearing of face masks, contact tracing, self-isolation and quarantine. Although, these measures may have assisted in reducing the impact of COVID-19 across the country, these measures are not sustainable over a long period. There is no definitive treatment for COVID-19. Most treatments such as chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, remdesivir, azithromycin, colchicine and many others have been repurposed and aimed at reducing the inflammatory response. In particular Ivermectin has been touted as a potential miracle drug, however there is very little evidence supporting its use for the prevention of COVID19.
In order to interrupt the transmission of COVID-19, reduce morbidity, mortality and economic consequences, it is essential that the host immunity is strengthened.
Vaccines are among the most effective and permanent way of inducing artificial immunity. The benefit of vaccination is at a population level. Enough people need to be immunised to reduce the opportunities for the disease to spread. The virus will not have enough eligible hosts to spread the infection and eventually be eliminated. This is a phenomenon of Herd Immunity, when a large proportion of the population develops immunity to a pathogen and this limits the spread of the pathogen by interrupting the chain of transmission. For us to achieve Herd immunity in South Africa, it is estimated that 70% of the population need to be immunised.
The benefits associated with protection conferred by the different vaccines FAR OUTWEIGH any potential risk of adverse event or serious adverse event. Side effects resulting from injection are mild and subside within days of administration. Most reported side effects include injection area pain and swelling, headache, lethargy and fever. The risk of serious adverse events is similar to those that maybe experienced by using commonly prescribed medication such as Aspirin or some antibiotics which are used widely despite their potential risks.
The vaccines do not contain any human or animal ingredients and are synthetically manufactured from derived products in the laboratory. The ethanol used in manufacture of vaccines and medication is chemically derived and not from fermentation process. The quantity is less than the amount found in common food ingredients. Human cell lines are not part of the ingredients of all the vaccines and when present are used as vehicle for
production but are not part of final vaccine. The vaccines do not alter the genetic make-up of a person.
Recent studies suggest that some vaccines may have reduced efficacy against the prevailing variant of SARS- Cov2 in South Africa. The virus is changing over time, which is a common scenario with many viruses. Scientists are assessing what this means for our local vaccine strategy. It is likely that even partial protection from a vaccine will reduce the risk of severe disease. It is possible that more than one type of vaccine, or repeated vaccination for different strains may be required similar to what has been used for influenza in the past.
After careful consideration of the role of the vaccine, mechanism of action and its potential impact, we are of the view that the benefits of the vaccination outweigh its risks and potential harm. The use of vaccines is an extremely cost-effective intervention and potentially prevents severe disease. The administration of the vaccine makes good economic sense in that it has the potential to reduce the adverse economic costs due to
illness on society and will allow us to return over a period of time to our normal activities including our religious observances and being able to travel for Umrah and Hajj.
As Muslims, it is our fundamental belief that life and death, illness and good health are all from the Almighty and no intervention can change destiny. However, as mortal beings it is our obligation to pursue all Sharia’h acceptable avenues that reduce our risk to adverse circumstances.
Based on our current knowledge at this point in time and subject to revision based on the availability of new data that is relevant – The Islamic Medical Association of South Africa recommends immunisation for COVID-19 for eligible individuals in line with national guidelines. Individuals should seek the advice of their medical practitioner and make an informed decision based on the best scientific evidence at the time of vaccination.
Any benefit that accrues from this advice is solely the favour of Allah SWT and any shortcomings are due to our weaknesses. May Allah SWT protect us from what is in front behind, right, left, and from above us, and we seek refuge in Allah’s Magnificence from being taken unaware from beneath us.
Compiled By: The Islamic Medical Association of South Africa [IMASA]
VACCINATION TASK TEAM