Two leading Muslim figures working in the NHS have today joined other medical leaders and Islamic scholars in stressing that Ramadan should not stop anyone from getting the NHS COVID vaccination.
Imam Yunus Dudhwala, Head of Chaplaincy at Barts Health NHS Trust, and Dr Farzana Hussain, a senior GP, stressed that getting the jab does not break the fast observed by Muslims during daylight hours over Ramadan.
Some NHS vaccination sites across England are extending their opening hours so that Muslims can receive the jab after they have eaten and make it easier for people to find a convenient slot.
However, Dr Hussain a practising Muslim who works at The Project Surgery in East London, said that there was no need to avoid daylight hours and it is a religious duty for Muslims to get vaccinated when their turn comes.
Dr Farzana Hussain said: “Getting an injection does not break the fast as it’s not nutrition and so there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t have it if you are eligible and have been invited for your Covid-19 vaccine and those scheduled for their second dose, should take it.
“The Koran says saving your life is the most important thing: to save one life is to save the whole of humanity. It’s a responsibility of a practising Muslim to take their vaccine.”
The British Islamic Medical Association, an affiliate of the Muslim Council of Britain, has issued specific advice, recommending the vaccine and insisting it is okay to have during Ramadan as it is not nutritional, nor does it contain any animal or foetal products. Full ingredient lists are published by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA): AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna.
Dr Hussain said: “Numerous studies have proven that the vaccine is safe and effective with minimal side effects. 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.
“Vaccination clinics are also extending their hours in response to make the vaccine as accessible as possible to everyone. The Covid-19 vaccine could help save your life so it is vital you don’t delay your appointment when invited.”
Imam Yunus Dudhwala, Head of Chaplaincy Barts Health NHS Trust, said: “This Ramadan will continue to be different. The vast majority of scholars have deemed taking the vaccine whilst fasting as permissible and stated that it does not break the fast.
“The experts have stated that the COVID-19 vaccine is effective and the best way of protecting yourself and your loved ones. I ask my Muslim brothers and sisters to consider taking the vaccine when called.
“If you have concerns about the vaccine, please talk to a healthcare professional and make an informed decision. I would like to extend my best wishes to all, especially my colleagues working in the NHS, for the month of Ramadan – Ramadan Mubarak.”
The NHS last month revealed its blueprint to tackle vaccine hesitancy, spearheaded by director of primary care Dr Nikki Kanani, which detailed efforts on encouraging uptake among ethnic minorities.
This includes engaging with community and faith leaders, translating materials into 20 languages and reaching communities with pop-up clinics and in places of worship, including Mosque’s such as those in Finsbury Park, Croydon and Brent, with lslamic scholars including Sheikh Mohammed Mahmoud OBE of East London Mosque and Imam Qari Asim, chairman of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board supporting the call to get the Muslim community vaccinated.
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.”
Vaccine Deployment Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “Vaccines are the best way to protect people from Coronavirus and are already saving thousands of lives and we want to make sure everybody can get a vaccine when it’s their turn – including those fasting this Ramadan.
“I know how important it is for people to be able to observe Ramadan as they would like so the government is working closely with local authorities, charities, faith and community groups to ensure people get the best advice and information about the COVID-19 vaccine, including on getting it.
“Vaccines are crucial in our fight against the virus and they help keep us and our loved ones safe, while enabling us to safely progress back to normal life.”
This builds on the highly successful NHS campaigns supported by BBC’s Adil Ray and Bake Off star Nadiya Hussain. There was a sharp increase in uptake of around 20% among Asian, and Bangladeshi communities in particular, from late February as a result.
Almost 27 million people have been vaccinated since the launch of the largest vaccination programme in the history of the NHS last December.
The NHS made history when 90-year-old Maggie Keenan was the first recipient in the world outside a clinical trial of a Pfizer vaccine at Coventry Hospital on 8 December 2020.
Brian Pinker, 82, was the first person to be vaccinated with the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine on 4 January 2021 by the NHS in the city where the jab was created.