This year, Ramadan once again falls during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Doctors in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have reassured Muslims worldwide that it is safe to be vaccinated against Covid-19 while fasting during Ramadan.
The holy month is expected to begin on April 12 or 13, but as the UAE continues to roll out its nationwide vaccination programme, doctors are urging those to continue with their first or second dose of a vaccine as planned.
In some cases, fasting can actually help improve immunity, they say.
Dr Maisaa al-Sulaiman, a specialist at Burjeel Specialty Hospital in Sharjah, said Muslims fasting during the month of Ramadan should not be wary about taking inoculations to protect against Covid-19.
“Fasting in Ramadan shouldn’t prevent people from taking the vaccine,” she told Al Arabiya English. “It is actually the opposite: scientifically, taking the vaccine while fasting is more effective and gives better results.”
Medically, this is due to a process called autophagy which she explained “is the immune system starting to clear out the body from all types of dead cells, diseases, and cancerous cells as well.”
She also said, “While fasting for more than 12 hours the body will be in its best state to defend itself and fight against any pathogens, and the result of the vaccine will be much better.”
Some people may experience minor side effects from vaccines, but the benefits far outweigh the risks, she said.
“Minor side effects like headache, dizziness, and pain in the arm shouldn’t scare people away.”
The British Medical Journal says that people from some UK ethnic minority backgrounds, such as black, Bangladeshi, and Pakistani, may be more hesitant to receive a Covid-19 vaccination during Ramadan because they don’t want to compromise their fast.
Faraz Mughal, of the British National Institute for Health Research, says it is important for these groups to know that having vaccines intramuscularly during daily fasting time does not nullify one’s fast and vaccination should not be delayed.
Clinicians and Covid-19 vaccinators advise those fasting to drink more clear fluid and take simple analgesics outside of fasting times to mitigate any side effects.