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SpartanDO Expert Take 2021-04

The SpartanDO Expert Take blog series examines the intersection of applied osteopathic medicine and culturally relevant issues. Each blog post will feature the perspective of a faculty member, alumni, or student associated with the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine.


April 2021

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I’m fasting for Ramadan?

Faith leaders and medical professionals agree that the vaccine does not violate fasting, urge Muslims to #GetYourShot when it’s your turn.

 

Ramadan Mubarak to everyone observing this holy month! Dr. Farha Abbasi, a renowned leader who speaks about Muslim health and mental health issues, joins other Islamic leaders and medical professionals in encouraging Muslims to #RollUpYourSleeve and receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s your turn. In this Expert Take, she explains potential vaccine hesitancy among some observant Muslims during this month of fasting (April 12 - May 12) and why faith leaders and medical experts alike are reassuring Muslims that receiving the immunization does not break their fast.

Why might some Muslims be hesitant to take the vaccine during Ramadan?

Ramadan is a holy month of fasting — observant Muslims do not eat or drink between sunrise and sunset. Islam inherently focuses on the “wellness to welfare” context using fasting as a way to purify your body and soul. Researchers have found evidence-based medical benefits to intermittent fasting and detoxing this way. Muslims (and those who fast in other religions) practice fasting as a way to deepen their spirituality and increase empathy — such as being more aware of others suffering hunger — and improving wellness. Some Muslims may be concerned that receiving the vaccine counts as breaking the fast, although the consensus among Muslim leaders is that it doesn’t.

Why do Islamic leaders and health professionals permit the COVID-19 vaccine while fasting?

There are many reasons:

  • The COVID-19 vaccine is injected. The vaccine delivery method is injection, which does not invalidate fasting because nothing is orally ingested. (Non-oral dosage forms such as injections, inhalations, suppositories and eye/ear drops are usually allowed during the fast.)
     
  • The COVID-19 vaccine is halal and does not contain pork products. Although some medicines contain pork- or beef-derived ingredients in the form of gelatin or other coating, the COVID-19 vaccine is free of these ingredients and is not a concern for anyone abstaining from pork. Two major Islamic scholars’ councils in America have studied this and concluded that the vaccine is halal and lawful. In fact, the couple who synthesized the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are both Germans of Turkish Muslim origin.
     
  • Ramadan fasting allows for exceptions. It is generally accepted that if you are sick, pregnant, chronically ill or otherwise unable to fast in a safe way due to physical or mental health, you can break your fast or make it up at another time. There are also many other ways to do good during this holy period, such as making donations and helping others. The intent matters as much as the action, so if you have the intent to fast, you’re still receiving the benefit.
     
  • You are contributing to community well-being. One of the core principles of Islam is to “do no harm” — taking the vaccine reduces the likelihood you will get sick, which prevents you from infecting others. An often-quoted verse from the Quran is that “If you save one life, it is as if you have saved the life of all humanity.” By taking the vaccine, you are fulfilling this virtuous ideal to do no harm, contributing to your own wellbeing and that of your community’s — in this case, through herd immunity.
     
  • Islamic faith leaders have taken the vaccine to show their followers that it’s OK.

Do you have any tips for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?

If you can, try to sign up for an early morning slot, right after you’ve eaten in the morning. Depending on where you live and the hours of operation of the vaccination sites near you, you could also go towards the evening right before you eat again. Some places are attempting to turn mosques into vaccination sites and offer evening, non-fasting vaccination hours as well.

Do you have other thoughts to share on this topic?

Beyond the COVID-19 vaccine, physicians should work in partnership with their Muslim patients if fasting may impact certain medications (such as medications that need to be taken with food or water). The timing can be adjusted or an alternate medication prescribed. It’s important for physicians, nurses and pharmacists to be aware of implications of fasting on medications during Ramadan. Find more resources about safely observing Ramadan during the pandemic.


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