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Getting The COVID-19 Vaccine During Ramadan Raises Questions For Muslims

The holy month of Ramadan, April 12 thru May 12 this year, is a time when observant Muslims fast from dawn until dusk.

It's happening at the same time that the COVID-19 vaccine is becoming more available, which has led some to question whether a person can get the vaccine without breaking their fast. Fasting is a form of worship for Muslims.

"I was debating whether to do the one-shot (vaccine) before Ramadan or do the two-shot and then, of course, you've got to take whatever shot's available when you register," said Lydia Rose, director of public relations and outreach for the Islamic Society of Akron and Kent (ISAK).

After Rose received her second Moderna shot while she was fasting, she was initially a little concerned. She was worried she might have side effects such as a fever. If she developed a fever she would need to drink water, which would break her fast.

But eventually, she realized, she would be ok. 

"If you're sick, you don't fast. It's not appropriate to fast if you're ill," she said. "So if you do experience side effects and you can't fast, you're exempt from fasting, and you would make that day up later on within the year before the next Ramadan."

According to Islamic scholars in theFiqh Society of North America and the Islamic Society of North America, the vaccine itself has no nutritional value, so getting it doesn't break Ramadan fast.

"All non-nutritional injections taken by the muscles are permissible to take during fasting, according to most Muslim jurists," Fiqh Society scholars said in a statement. "It is permissible to take (the) COVID Vaccine injection during fasting in Ramadan or at any time."

In addition, the British Islamic Medical Association produced an educational video with imam Mohammed Mahmoud which had a similar conclusion.

“Those who will observe the fast this Ramadan, rest assured, the vast majority of scholars state that it is permissible to take the vaccine whilst fasting,” Mahmoud said.

Although some scholars are in agreement on the issue, Faheem Shaikh, president of the Islamic Society of Akron and Kent, isn’t sure everyone has been convinced.

“Some people still want to err on the side of caution. They may want to wait until after Ramadan to get their shot,” Shaikh said.

And in Dearborn, Michigan, which has a large Muslim population, one clinic took a nontraditional route to work around the issue, last month. The clinic offered vaccines from 9 p.m. to midnight for those who might still be hesitant.

Rose received her vaccine from the Islamic Center of Cleveland, a mosque in Parma, Ohio, which she said made her feel more comfortable.

"When you go to the other clinics, you have to expose your arm out in the open, and so going to the mosque to get vaccinated was very important to me so that I have my privacy and that it was another woman that was giving me the vaccine," she said. 

Muslims can receive treatments like the COVID-19 vaccine from health professionals of the opposite sex, Rose said, but it was her personal preference to get the vaccine from a woman. 

When the Islamic Society of Akron and Kent hosted a vaccine clinic, they also divided men and women so they could have privacy when exposing their arms and receive the vaccine from a person of the same sex, she said. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has already changed the holy month of Ramadan for many Muslims, with more masking, social distancing and virtual prayer sessions than usual. 

"Normally when we pray, we pray shoulder-to-shoulder," Rose said. "Right now we're not able to pray that way, we're doing social distancing."

Mosques also require masks, and many have virtual sessions to keep people safe from COVID-19 spread. 

But Ramadan is a way for people to get together, and Rose said she's not able to see her family like normal.

"We miss everyone, it's hard not seeing people and not being able to interact with people," she said. 

But soon she'll be fully vaccinated, and she looks forward to seeing her family, safely, in the future. 


Copyright 2021 WCPN