Muslim leaders and NHS urge continued vaccinations over Ramadan
The British Islamic Medical Association has released a set of COVID-19 guidelines for Ramadan which explain that since the vaccination is an intramuscular injection of no nutritional value, it does not invalidate the fast.
It also reiterated that the vaccination itself is halal, after misinformation swirled at the start of this year via WhatsApp and social media that they contained animal products and fetal material.
Muslim doctors, imams, and community leaders have been working hard over the past few weeks issuing statements in the press, posting on social media platforms, speaking at Friday prayer congregations, and even running webinars, to ensure that they are reaching as many members of the Muslim community as possible, busting myths around the COVID-19 vaccination, and providing reassurance that they can get vaccinated while fasting.
"The Muslim community has really pulled together to encourage vaccinations in Ramadan. This includes official guidance on the advice from scholars, imams and medical doctors, as well as communities coming together to open vaccination hubs inside mosques as well as sharing information on TV, radio and other media outlets," says Dr Kiran Rahim, paediatrician and founder of The Munching Medic on Instagram, where she posts videos and infographics dispelling myths around the COVID-19 vaccination.
|There is still a gap with Muslims over 70 being among the lowest uptake|
"We hope that everyone regardless of their age will follow advice. Vaccination is one of the best defences we have against COVID-19 at the moment."
Dr Attiya Khan, GP and author of Ten Steps to Us, told The New Arab, "Doctors have done health promotion in the community releasing videos in different languages encouraging members of the BAME community to get their vaccines.
"However there is still a gap with Muslims over 70 being among the lowest uptake. According to Muslim News whilst the worst uptake is among people aged 70 and over with a Black African heritage numbering only 58.8 percent followed by 68.7 percent identified as Black Caribbean, among those of Bangladeshi and Pakistani heritages the rate was next lowest of just 72.7 percent and 74.0 percent respectively."
Despite this mammoth effort by Muslim medical professionals and faith leaders across the country, there are still some that are hesitant to get their vaccine during Ramadan.
Ahmed Khan from Dewsbury in West Yorkshire told The New Arab that despite him and his siblings reassuring his parents that the vaccine does not invalidate the fast, they prefer to get vaccinated after the month has finished.
"My parents want to err on the side of caution and are hesitant to inject something into their bodies while fasting. They are also concerned that if they do get vaccinated during Ramadan that potential side effects will leave them sick, weak and unable to fast for several days."
However according to Imam Mohammed Adel from Bradford, elder members of the community have recently started to come round and show a willingness to get vaccinated during the holy month, particularly since Muslim scholars have publicly advocated it.
"Some elder members of our community have even said they won't fast on that day if needs be, though we are saying as imams it won't invalidate the fast but may lead to weakness and a lack of strength. There is now a positive attitude from the elders towards getting the vaccination which is encouraging."
The New Arab spoke to several members of the Muslim community across the UK and the majority were in favour of getting vaccinated during Ramadan.
"If I get called in to get my vaccine during Ramadan I would absolutely get it because I want to be protected and I know I can take the vaccine while fasting. By taking the vaccine I would be taking care of my health," says Anjum Peerbacos, a writer and teacher in London.
"I don't see why I wouldn't get it or why it would even pose a dilemma for me," says Maryam, a PhD candidate in Leeds. "Even if it did nullify your fast on that day, I'd still take it as health trumps everything, and I could make up the fast another day."
|Getting vaccinated means you're working together with the rest of the society to ensure everyone's safety and good health|
Earlier this year there was talk of drive-thru clinics to help increase the uptake of COVID-19 vaccines during Ramadan, due to concerns around the implications of those unwilling to vaccinate during the month of fasting and ultimately leading to a delay in Boris Johnson's target of all adults receiving their first jab by 31 July 2021.
Sutton in South London, and Ilford in East London, are two areas where the NHS and local councils have teamed up to provide twilight clinics, and Muslims will be able to receive their vaccinations after breaking their fast at Maghrib.
Dr Shabnam Ali, PCN lead in Redbridge, East London, told The New Arab, "We are currently working with the council to commission a bus we can take to areas of poor uptake, and during Ramadan we are planning to use this bus to hold twilight clinics at some mosques.
"[The] idea is we would hold a clinic on the bus just after iftaar (the breaking of the fast) to vaccinate those who aren't prepared to get a vaccination during fasting hours."
Read also: US Muslim groups urge health precautions for Ramadan
However, there does not appear to be a nationwide plan for after-hour clinics, which is most likely down to local councils and their budgets.
Despite this, Muslim doctors and imams are optimistic that with scholars advocating vaccinations during Ramadan, the rollout and uptake of them in the community will not be negatively impacted.
As restrictions slowly begin to ease in the UK, Muslim leaders have the same advice – put preservation of health and life first, and get vaccinated.
"Please get vaccinated if you are called up. Protect not only yourself, but also those around you," says Imam Sabah Ahmedi from Surrey.
"Islam teaches that part of your faith is loyalty to your nation and with that comes loves for one's country, thus getting vaccinated means you're working together with the rest of the society to ensure everyone's safety and good health. Your faith allows you to take the vaccine so please do so."
Yousra Samir Imran is a British Egyptian writer and author who is based Yorkshire. She is the author of Hijab and Red Lipstick, being published by Hashtag Press in the UK in October 2020
Follow her here: @UNDERYOURABAYA