Editor’s note: Simerg does not generally publish or encourage anonymous articles on any of its websites but in this particular case we have decided to protect the author’s identity, as it concerns a health matter. The editor has verified the content of the article, and wishes to assure readers that the facts that are noted by the author are correct. Any oversight or error is unintentional and is deeply regretted.
Ontario began rolling out the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in select pharmacies and doctor offices across the province to people over the age of 60 on Monday, March 22, 2021. Yesterday, a mass vaccination clinic was opened in Thorncliffe Park at the the East York Town Centre on Overlea Blvd, and I decided to visit the location. It was jam packed with cars as hundreds of seniors who qualify under Phase One showed up to get the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, after registering through the website of Michael Garron Hospital. I did not qualify under the Phase 1 criteria and would have to wait my turn at East York Town Centre and other mass vaccination sites.
However, another avenue had opened up to acquire the vaccine in Toronto, and that was through one of the designated pharmacies. There was one near the place where I stay that was offering the AstraZeneca vaccine. As I began completing the registration form, I wondered whether my responses to questions concerning my health, for example whether I had a chronic health condition, would disqualify me from getting the AstraZeneca vaccine. I completed the form and submitted it, hoping for the best.
I then followed my application with a phone call to the pharmacist offering the vaccine, and informed the pharmacist about my Autoimmune Hepatitis condition or AIH (this occurs when your body’s infection-fighting system, or the immune system, attacks your liver cells and causes permanent and irreversible liver damage. In acute cases, the liver may heal itself as a regenerating organ).
The cause of AIH has not yet been determined but from what I am learning more and more people, including very young people, are acquiring AIH. The pharmacist had a long list of autoimmune conditions that would still qualify individuals getting AstraZeneca vaccine, but AIH was not among the ones listed. He declined my request, based on the guidelines he had in front of him and suggested that I should go with Pfizer-BioNTech when it became available to me. However the eligibility criteria meant that I would have to wait for a few to several weeks based on the phase 2 or 3 roll-out.
On the weekend of Navroz, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, in his Talika or written message to the Ismailis, clearly stated that “my Jamat should not give credence to any misinformation regarding the vaccination process, and comparisons between the different officially sanctioned vaccines that are now available.” He also said, “I recommend that all my murids should accept to be vaccinated in accordance with the directives of their respective health authorities as soon as the vaccines are offered — as indeed I have done already.”
In view of Canada’s approval of AstraZeneca vaccine, I then met my local doctor, as my pharmacist had declined the vaccine to me because of my AIH condition. My doctor was convinced from the research that she had carried out that I was perfectly OK to get the AstraZeneca vaccine. I even read out what Mawlana Hazar Imam had said, and she agreed with him. She said she would be writing to the pharmacist to give me the vaccine, but recommended I also speak to my hepatologist.
Earlier that morning I had actually called and left a message with the offices of the liver clinic, AIH section, at the Toronto General Hospital concerning AstraZeneca. Some hours later I got a phone call from the liver clinic encouraging me to take AstraZeneca when it was made available to me. I was also provided with a link to a letter the liver clinic had issued on its website (read LETTER). Subsequently my doctor forwarded an email to the pharmacist requesting the AstraZeneca vaccine to me.
There had been a cancellation, and I willingly took up the spot that was offered to me on the following day. When I arrived at the pharmacy, I was asked a few questions including any chronic condition. I also read the list of autoimmune diseases at the reception table that qualified for the vaccine. Of course, AIH was not on the list, but the pharmacist had already received my doctor’s approval for the AstraZeneca jab. There was a little bit of a wait but the jab that I got on my left arm took less than 3 seconds to administer. I was asked to hang around in the pharmacy for 15 minutes, in case of any reaction. I was then provided with a letter, as a kind of a receipt, in which I noted that the vaccine was listed as COVISHIELD, which is another name used by AstraZeneca. I reminded myself about adhering to the guidelines about social distancing, washing hands and wearing a mask, even though I had been vaccinated.
I did not know how long a wait it would be for the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vacciness, and am glad I went for the AstraZeneca shot after my reluctance for several days. Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Talika with precise guidelines was the determining factor. The Government of Canada had already sanctioned AstraZeneca but, until I read the Talika, there was doubt in my mind over getting the vaccine.
For individuals facing autoimmune hepatitis or other serious liver issues, please be advised that the liver clinic at the Toronto General Hospital recommends that you get vaccinated. I conclude this piece with the following 5 important points from their document (and this applies to Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna as well as AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines):
• Having liver disease does not increase your risk of experiencing a side effect;
• The medications you take for your liver disease, including any immunosuppression [Prednisone, Azathioprine — author], should not be a reason to decline a vaccine, but may have a small effect on how well the vaccine protects you;
• People with liver disease, especially cirrhosis and possibly fatty liver, are at higher risk of getting very sick if they get COVID-19 infection, making it even more important to be vaccinated and be protected;
• The vaccines are over 90% protective against symptomatic COVID-19; and
• The vaccines have been studied in people with liver disease with no safety concerns identified.
I once again remind readers of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s messages: “…..my Jamat should not give credence to any misinformation regarding the vaccination process, and comparisons between the different officially sanctioned vaccines that are now available”, and “I recommend that all my murids should accept to be vaccinated in accordance with the directives of their respective health authorities as soon as the vaccines are offered — as indeed I have done already.”
Date posted: March 25, 2021.
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