Fasting and vaccines this Ramadan
By Zeenath Uddin, Head of Quality and Safety on 13 April 2021
Today marks the start of Ramadan and as we enter the Holy Month we look forward to a different experience from last year. This time last year we were in our first lockdown and under the pressure and exhaustion of working on the frontline. We took to virtual sessions with loved ones and, for some of us, eating alone at Iftar. This year it is different. Some restrictions have eased, we social distancing, we can meet and we now have a vaccine rollout programme to protect us from COVID-19.
Ramadan is obligatory and is one of the pillars in Islamic teaching when many Muslims abstain from eating and drinking (yes, drinking!) from dawn to sunset for almost 30 days, unless they are sick, pregnant, or fasting impairs their overall health. The Holy Month is intended as a time of self-restraint, reflection, patience and charity, as Muslims believe the act of fasting serves as a reminder for those who are less fortunate. For thousands of frontline workers, including midwives and maternity support workers, the first few days are always tricky, but it becomes a zen-like experience after that.
It was a sad reality that many frontline clinicians died in the fight against COVID-19 worldwide, and the first four doctors to die from the virus here in the UK were Muslim immigrants. We know from a recent Public Health England review that ‘we’ (minority and ethnic groups) are more likely to test positive for COVID-19, and ‘we’ are more likely to die from the virus. Islam teaches that protecting and preserving human life is integral. In light of the current pandemic, getting vaccinated seems to be one of the most effective ways to prevent illness and loss of life.
This year, during Ramadan, vaccinations may continue to be offered to our brothers and sisters. It is anticipated that some people may be reluctant in accepting vaccinations. There are also concerns about vaccine-related side-effects and whether one will have the strength to continue with the fast should they have symptoms following the vaccine. However, this should be addressed and weighed against the severe morbidity or mortality related to COVID-19.
Over 30 million people have already received their first vaccine dose in the UK. Islamic scholars have made it clear that having the vaccine does not invalidate the fast. However, if you are still unsure whether you should have a vaccine during the Holy Month, please speak to your local Imam or health professional for further guidance. We must stand together and not allow the progress brought about by an incredible amount of work and effort has gone into bringing the vaccines to our local communities to protect our most vulnerable. It is also our best chance at seeing a gradual return of community events, gatherings, and maybe even celebrating Eid together next year.
Amid the exhaustion of fighting a pandemic, we are still not without our challenges. Mentally and physically exhausted from the year gone, ongoing virtual prayers and continual use of PPE, and the lack of uptake of vaccines in some of our communities, there is hope
And so finally, to our Muslim members, midwives, maternity support workers, students and healthcare colleagues, a health and happy Ramadan to you all.
Take a look at Zeenath’s top five tips for fasting during the pandemic this Ramadan.