As the Muslim community prepare for a second Ramadan in coronavirus lockdown, the NHS Race and Health Observatory has issued an early reminder for healthcare leaders to assure their Muslim staff that it is safe to receive Covid-19 inoculations whilst fasting.
This year, Ramadan starts on April 12 lasting for 30 days until 12 May 2021.
The Observatory is aware of a number of enquiries related to vaccine uptake during Ramadan. In addition to concerns around the act of inoculation breaking the fast, the vast number of issues have also centred around potential side effects of feeling unwell post vaccination and reservations over taking daily pain relief medication.
During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating any food and drinking any liquids, from dawn to sunset. The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid (12 May) where the Islamic month of fasting and individual, personal observation of spiritual reflection, is set to end. Typically, the festival of Eid sees families come together to celebrate the month’s achievement with meal gatherings, parties, visits to family and friends, as well as attending special prayers in mosques.
Dr Habib Naqvi, Director of the NHS Race and Health Observatory said:
“We need to tackle and address early concerns raised by Muslim communities who may be offered their vaccinations whilst fasting and working in frontline and supporting roles.”
“There is no reason why a first or second dose vaccine cannot be administered during Ramadan. The content is halal, and receiving it will not invalidate the Ramadan fast, as per the opinion of Islamic scholars.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has required sacrifices from all NHS staff. Muslims have additional challenges during Ramadan by having to function without sustenance during working hours. We do not want to put these communities at any unnecessary risk by not accepting their first or second dose of the vaccination if offered.”
Last week the Observatory issued an infographic to help support NHS bodies and local community groups with information and advice on increasing vaccine uptake by black and minority ethnic communities.
It includes the number of black and minority ethnic people involved in vaccine trials and the lack of evidence to suggest any of the UK approved vaccines perform differently, based on ethnicity.
The infographic also outlines:
- Identification of vaccine barriers and potential solutions
- Advice on consistent and culturally sensitive messaging
- Access and appropriate local venues for maximum vaccine delivery
- The historical and current context of vaccine research on BME communities
Ramadan is one of a number of forthcoming faith periods and festivals, including Passover, Easter, Vaisakhi and Eid, likely to be celebrated amid some Covid-19 restrictions and adapted practices.
Dr Hina Shahid, Chair, Muslim Doctors Association, said:
“This has been a unique time globally, with festivals of Ramadan and Eid occurring during the peak of COVID-19. Muslims and other faith communities have met these challenges head on; it was inspiring to see the community using technology for prayer and sharing images of iftar with family and friends at the start of the pandemic.
“Obviously, during the pandemic these festivities and norms have been very different. Vaccination is one of our biggest tools to make sure we can go back to normal soon, including celebrating festivals with our loved ones when it is safe to do so. I encourage everyone to get vaccinated when they get called, including during Ramadan, and to discuss any concerns with their GP.”
Currently, Covid-19 secure mosques and other places of worship are open, with some set up as vaccination sites.
Habib Naqvi, added:
“This virus has made many of our black and minority ethnic communities even more vulnerable. If coronavirus restrictions remain in place this Ramadan, the message is, whether working or shielding, take the vaccine and help protect yourself and your community.”
The NHS has a diverse workforce with an estimated 3.3% of the 1.4 million NHS workers being from a Muslim background.