By Dr. Iram Sattar (MWNUK Trustee and Safeguarding Lead)
Even though people from Black and Asian backgrounds are more likely to die from Covid-19, they are more reluctant to have the vaccine. We are at a time in the pandemic where it is even more vitally important that as many people get vaccinated as quickly as they can. This can’t be stressed enough. The new variant (B.1.1.7) is about 50% more transmissible which means it spreads more easily than the old one. Put it this way – during the November lockdown (where restaurants and shops apart from supermarkets were shut, people were told to work from home if they can, schools and universities were open and you were only allowed to meet one person outdoors ie no meeting indoors were allowed) the old variant dropped by a third (30%) but the new strain tripled (300%) – yes tripled. This is very scary!
New variants occur when viruses mutate, and all viruses mutate – it’s the natural way they evolve. Viruses only mutate when they replicate. They replicate to survive otherwise they would die. Viruses can only replicate inside a host and for Covid-19 that means inside a human. So, the more the coronavirus spreads in humans, the more chance it has to replicate and mutate. Scientists and doctors are confident that the current Covid vaccines will still work against this new variant. However, if the virus mutates more, which it will as it continues to spread, the current vaccine may not work and we would be at the start of the pandemic all over again where it would take several months to make and test a new vaccine. And for those who’ve already had the old Covid they could catch the new Covid all over again, just like flu every year. Imagine that. Imagine reliving 2020 on repeat…
Unfortunately, research in December 2020 in the UK (by Royal Society of Public Health) showed that 57% of people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds were likely to accept a Covid-19 vaccine compared to 79% of the White population. And we already know that people from Black and Asian backgrounds are more likely to die from Covid-19 than the White population. We understand some people are hesitant about taking the Coronavirus vaccines. However, there is a lot of misinformation out there.
The Muslim Women’s Network UK trustee, Dr. Iram Sattar who is also a NHS GP, has explained here why it is important for people to take the vaccine. She has had the Covid vaccine herself and her parents will also be taking it as soon as it is made available to them. Furthermore, the mother-in-law of Shaista Gohir (who is also a MWNUK trustee) has also had the vaccine recently and she is 81 years old, as shown in the above image.
1) Are the Coronavirus vaccines safe to take?
Yes, they are. Any vaccine that is made goes through a vigorous/strict scientific testing process and the Coronavirus vaccines are no different. Yes, it has been done much faster than usual but that’s because so many of the world’s scientists are all working on this one thing and the two biggest obstacles that slow down vaccine development, funding and recruiting volunteers for testing, weren’t a problem this time because the whole world’s attention is on Covid.
2) Are the new mRNA vaccines safe (Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna)? Will they alter my DNA?
For the same reasons already outlined, YES mRNA vaccines are safe. They have gone through the same rigorous/strict testing. Yes, mRNA vaccines are a newer technique but the woman who pioneered them, Dr Katalin Karikó, has been working on mRNA for over 40 years.
NO mRNA does not alter your DNA – they are two different things. mRNA is a just a piece of code that tells your body to make a protein and then it disintegrates and disappears. In the Coronavirus vaccines mRNA tells the body to make the spike protein (found on the surface of the virus) so that the body’s immune system can learn to recognise and fight it off. (mRNA technology is an exciting new technology as it can be used in so many different diseases – Dr Kariko will probably win a Nobel prize one day).
3) Are there any risks?
There is always a risk to anything in life – even taking paracetamol or crossing the road. So, the real question is, do the risks outweigh the benefits? The answer – the benefits overwhelmingly outweigh the risks. Vaccines aren’t a new thing – they’ve been around for hundreds of years. We know a lot about how they work, their side effects and how the immune system works. The risks from the Coronavirus vaccines are minimal compared to the risks of not controlling this awful pandemic. You already know the damage this virus has done to families, livelihoods, and economies – 1.8 million people have died worldwide. The chance of having a serious side effect from a UK approved Coronavirus vaccine is far, far smaller than the risk of catching Covid-19 and being ill from it – one in 10 people have Long Covid – which means they still have symptoms 12 weeks later.
4) Could a microchip be inserted at the same time of the vaccine?
NO! Think about it – for a chip to be put into each vaccine that would mean many, many people working together and conspiring to chip the world’s population – ie all the researchers and scientists who design the vaccines, all the manufacturers who make the vaccine and all regulators who approve the vaccine so this unfeasible and just not doable. And we all carry around a mobile phone anyway, which is a GPS tracker and we use social media; Google and Amazon know more about us already.
It is clear that having the Covid vaccine is essential. If we don’t, more people will die. As the Quran says,‘whoever saves a life, it will be as if they saved all of humanity’(5:32). So, please have the vaccine when you’re offered it, start conversations with your families and loved ones to answer their genuine concerns and spread this information as widely as you can.
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