Local Tower Hamlets GPs are urging Muslims not to delay having their COVID-19 vaccine – first or second dose – during the holy month of Ramadan, which is due to start on the evening of Monday 12 April 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit local communities in Tower Hamlets hard and with tragic consequences. The safest and most effective way to protect yourself, your family, and those most at risk from the virus is by having a vaccine when you are offered it by the NHS.
To reassure the Muslim community, the British Islamic Medical Association has reviewed the analysis of Islamic scholars and confirmed that having the vaccine does not invalidate the fast. In addition, the vaccine does not contain pork or other animals, foetal, or alcohol products - this reflects the advice of the majority of Islamic scholars that it is permissible.
Dr Abdul Wadud Kamali, who is a GP at The Limehouse Practice in Poplar and a practising Muslim, said: "Assalamualaikum and Ramadan Mubarak to my fellow Muslims. The holy month will be a very different experience for all of us once again this year, thanks to COVID-19, and your Imam will be able to advise you on how best to mark the month. However you celebrate, I wish you a safe and healthy Ramadan.
"As Muslims, we have a duty to preserve life, and getting vaccinated is the most effective way to prevent illness and loss of life from COVID-19. A lot of hard work has gone into bringing the vaccines to our local communities to protect our most vulnerable, and we have already vaccinated thousands of people in Tower Hamlets. We must now stand together and not allow this progress to halt during Ramadan. 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 for guidance.
"I urge everyone to have the jab when offered, but please continue to follow government guidelines to reduce transmission and help save lives."
If you are taking prescribed medicines, you should continue taking them during Ramadan, but check with your GP if the doses need to be adjusted or the times that you take them to need to be changed.
If you have diabetes and want to fast, please speak to your GP or diabetes nurse about the safest way to do this. Remember that there is an exemption for people with diabetes, especially if you're on insulin or have any medical complications.
Please remember: Fasting is not considered compulsory for many groups – including people who are unwell with a physical or mental illness or have a long-term condition; people who are very frail; people with learning difficulties; and women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or menstruating. In addition, those with an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 should consider alternative options to fasting.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets said: "Once again this year, Ramadan will be different for our Muslim community as we continue to feel the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We now have the hope offered by the COVID-19 vaccines, which are our best protection against the virus and can help us return to a more normal way of life. I urge everyone, including the Muslim community to protect themselves during Ramadan, remembering advice from Islamic scholars and community leaders that the vaccine does not invalidate the fast."
The British Islamic Medical Association also advises that if you become unwell after receiving your COVID-19 vaccine or due to another reason, you should stop fasting and seek medical advice. You can do this by visiting 111.nhs.uk or your GP practice's website or if you don't have access to the internet, by calling 111 or your practice directly. Please note that most side-effects from the vaccine are mild and clear up on their own after a few hours.
If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 while fasting, GPs advise that you stop fasting, self-isolate, and get tested. If you are worried about your symptoms or are not sure what to do, visit 111.nhs.uk/covid-19 or speak to your GP practice.
For more advice on staying healthy during Ramadan, visit www.nhs.uk/LiveWell