Getting the Covid-19 vaccine during Ramadan does not mean breaking your fast, senior Muslim figures working in the NHS and health organisations have said.
There have been concerns that being vaccinated might invalidate the fast that is strictly observed by Muslims during daylight hours over Ramadan, during which they are required to abstain from all food or drink.
However a number of religious leaders in the UK agree that having the jab does not break the fast because an injection is not defined as nutrition. Ramadan begins on the evening of April 12 (Monday) in the UK and ends on May 12.
The British Islamic Medical Association, affiliated with the Muslim Council of Britain, has issued specific advice to reassure those of Muslim faith that it is okay to get vaccinated during Ramadan. This is because the vaccine is not nutritional and does not contain any animal or foetal products. Full ingredient lists of all the vaccines available are published by the MHRA.
“Getting an injection does not break the fast as it’s not nutrition,” said Dr Farzana Hussain, a senior GP and practising Muslim based in east London.
“There is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t have it if you are eligible and have been invited for your Covid-19 vaccine,” she said, adding that those scheduled for their second dose should also take it.
“The vast majority of scholars have deemed taking the vaccine whilst fasting as permissible and stated that it does not break the fast,” said Imam Yunus Dudhwala, head of chaplaincy at Barts Health NHS Trust, who extended best wishes to all colleagues working throughout the NHS during Ramadan.
Some Muslims believe that fasting during Ramadan requires “refraining from anything entering the body cavities”.
However members of the South Asian Health Foundation in the UK, who have contributed to a paper published in The Lancet journal on this topic, say that for most, fasting applies only to nutrition or medicine entering the gastrointestinal tract or brain, whereas Covid vaccines are administered into the arm muscle.
Tackling vaccine hesitancy
Writing in their paper on vaccine hesitancy over Ramadan, members of the South Asian Health Foundation acknowledged concerns in the Muslim community over whether they must break fast for the vaccination, as well worries over possible side effects.
They noted that Muslim scholars around the world – including the president of two Holy Mosques in Saudi Arabia – have advised that the Covid vaccine is permissible during Ramadan without invalidating the fast.
In March, the NHS revealed its blueprint to tackle vaccine hesitancy, which detailed efforts on encouraging uptake among ethnic minorities. This included engaging with community and faith leaders, translating materials into 20 languages and reaching communities in pop-up clinics and places of worship.
Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and national medical director for primary care, said: “The largest vaccination programme in NHS history has been a huge success since its inception but we must continue to challenge misinformation and advocate the vaccine as being entirely appropriate to have during Ramadan.
“It is vital that people of all faiths feel able to come forward and get the vaccine.”
Can I be vaccinated after hours?
Despite vaccination not being deemed as breaking the fast, some NHS vaccination sites across England are extending their opening hours during Ramadan so that Muslims can receive the jab after they have eaten.
“Vaccination clinics are extending their hours in response to make the vaccine as accessible as possible to everyone,” Dr Hussain said. “The Covid-19 vaccine could help save your life so it is vital you don’t delay your appointment when invited.”
What about side effects and pain relief?
Vaccine side effects have proven to be another concern for those called up for the jab – however doctors stress that in most cases side effects are mild. You can find out about the specific side effects from the vaccines here.
“Numerous studies have proven that the vaccine is safe and effective with minimal side effects,” said Dr Hussain.
“Anyone concerned about requiring painkillers should remember that while side effects are unlikely, breaking the fast to take medication is allowed during Ramadan if you are unwell, regardless of the cause,” she added.
If you are have any questions or worries about the vaccine, talking to your GP or a healthcare professional can help you make an informed decision.