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COVID-19 vaccination won't break your fast this Ramadan, say experts

As Muslims begin their second month-long fast under a COVID-19 Ontario-wide lockdown — but this time with vaccines available — some wonder whether they should be getting the shot while fasting.

Experts on Islam, health field questions from Muslim community about what's acceptable during the month

Aarij Anwer, interim imam and Islamic education co-ordinator with the London Muslim Mosque, says getting vaccinated against COVID-19 won't interfere with fasting during Ramadan. (Submitted by Aarij Anwer)

As Muslims begin their second month-long fast under a COVID-19 Ontario-wide lockdown — this time with vaccines available — some wonder whether they should be getting the shot while fasting.

The fasting period, from dawn to sunset, each day of the holy month of Ramadan starts Tuesday and includes no food or drink, prompting some members of Ontario's Muslim community to turn to religious and health experts for guidance.

Aarij Anwer, interim imam and Islamic education co-ordinator with the London Muslim Mosque, said community members have asked him if they are permitted to get vaccinated while fasting.

"The question very frequently asked is, "I got an appointment during the fasting hours. Can I take the vaccine while fasting?" The answer is, "Yes, you should take it as it does not affect the fast."

Tackling misinformation

Anwer said he's trying to tackle any confusion and misinformation, as well as encourage Muslims to get vaccinated.

London Muslim Mosque members, as well as other Muslims worldwide, are going through their second Ramadan starting Tuesday since the pandemic began over a year ago. (Maram Hijazi/CBC)

"That is something that we are encouraging Muslims to take, as part of their commitment to their faith, as part of their commitment to their well-being."

Referring to Islamic agencies in North America and internationally, Anwer said there is the understanding that "non-nutritious injections, for example vaccines, have no effect on the fast and will not invalidate the fast. A person can take this and their fast will continue to be intact."

Nour Al-Farawi, a primary-care nurse practitioner, said it's important for everyone, including Muslims, to get vaccinated as soon as they're able to, even if it's during the month of Ramadan.

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"It is well established that intramuscular injection is not a form of sustenance or food, and therefore is permissible," he said.

"I do want to stress we are in the third wave of this pandemic and it's important, now more than ever, to keep ourselves and others around us safe and healthy, and this vaccine rollout is unlike any we may have experienced in the past," she said. 

For those concerned about possible vaccine side-effects while fasting, Al-Farawi said most are mild and do not last long. 

"If there's anything that's stopping you, make sure you're making an informed decision before you decide not to get [the vaccine]. I can't stress enough that it's very important at this time."

Keeping well during fasting period

The Canadian Muslim COVID-19 Task Force, which provides culturally appropriate guidance and messaging around the coronavirus, echoed that advice.

"This year, the COVID-19 vaccine will likely be available to many individuals during the month of Ramadan," the task force's website reads. "Everyone is recommended to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible, and without delay."

The Canadian Muslim COVID-19 Task Force, which provides culturally appropriate guidance and messaging around the coronavirus to Muslim communities, recommends people get vaccinated 'as soon as they are eligible, and without delay.' (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

Under the task force's guidelines, it notes that getting tested for COVID-19 while fasting, or taking the vaccine, doesn't break a fast.

"It is not necessary to eat before or right after vaccination. Staying hydrated and eating nourishing suhoors [meal before sunrise] will help ensure that we are staying well for activities during Ramadan, including vaccination," the website reads. 

The task force says individuals are permitted to stop fasting if they get side-effects after getting the shot and feel they will worsen.

COVID-19 vaccination clinics in Middlesex-London are open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET daily; all appointments can be booked in advance through the covidvaccinelm.ca website or by phone at  226-289-3560.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sara Jabakhanji

Reporter/Editor

Sara Jabakhanji is a reporter with CBC News and graduate of Ryerson's School of Journalism. Sara has chased stories for the CBC across the province of Ontario in Toronto, Ottawa and is currently working with the CBC London bureau. She was born in Damascus, Syria and immigrated to Canada with her family when she was eight years old. Sara can speak fluent Arabic and is working on improving her French. She can be reached at: sara.jabakhanji@cbc.ca

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