Concerns About COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy During Ramadan

By Megan Brooks

April 19, 2021

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Concerns are being raised about acceptance of COVID-19 vaccination during Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting that runs April 12 to May 12.

For 1.9 billion Muslims worldwide, Ramadan is happening during the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination programs.

With the exception for those in ill-health, Ramadan fasts require Muslims to abstain from food and drink during daylight hours. Fasting during Ramadan also requires "refraining from anything entering the body cavities," Dr. Sarah Ali of the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and colleagues explain in a letter in The Lancet.

"Growing concerns around uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine during Ramadan are focused on whether the injection invalidates the fast, any possible side-effects, and whether people have to break the fast," Dr. Ali and colleagues say.

"Some reluctance to receiving vaccinations is anticipated during Ramadan" and there is "an urgent need for a global call for action to reduce vaccine hesitancy," they write.

They want public and healthcare professionals to know that Muslim scholars have advised that the COVID-19 vaccine is permissible during Ramadan, without invalidating the fast.

“The COVID-19 vaccine does not invalidate or break the Ramadan fast. So we encourage healthcare professionals to discuss this with Muslim patients and to encourage people to take the vaccine during Ramadan,” Dr. Ali told Reuters Health by email.

“This has been clarified by a number of announcements for religious authorities, including the recent edict from the President of the Two Holiest Sites in Islam,” Dr. Ali said.

She and her colleagues suggest religious leaders use Friday prayer sermons to promote the acceptance of vaccines, dispelling myths with worshippers. However, some Muslims will still not want to be vaccinated during fasting hours, they acknowledge.

"A solution to this problem would be to extend vaccination times outside of fasts, such as during special Ramadan nightly prayers, Taraweeh. Using mosques as vaccination sites would allow vaccinations to occur during Ramadan, including in non-fasting hours," they suggest.

"Vaccinations are the greatest tool to aid the world back to normality, and to the gradual return of celebrating festivals and future Ramadans," they conclude.

“If anyone develops symptoms of COVID-19, they should break the fast immediately, keep themselves well hydrated and follow public health guidance/ medical advice on next steps,” Dr. Ali told Reuters Health.

SOURCE: The Lancet, online April 7, 2021.