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Ramadan fasting does not stop vaccination, US groups say

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With Ramadan less than a month away, some Muslim organizations in the United States have begun to address a critical question: whether fasting Ramadan from dawn to dusk prevents Muslims from receiving vaccine injections during daylight hours.

Executive Director i Islamic Society of North America, Basharat Saleem, said numerous scholars of Islamic law had been advised on the matter.

The answer is no, he said. It does not break the fast.

The group joined dozens of others last year in organizing a National Muslim Task Force in Covid-19, which has received advice from Muslim lawyers. They were in general agreement, Mr. Saleem said, that getting a Covid-19 vaccine was acceptable during Ramadan or at any other time. A shot will not invalidate the fast because it has no nutritional value and is injected into the muscle, the task force announced, a decision that in the past has covered flu shots and other vaccines.

Whether vaccinations are allowed during Ramadan is not a concern only for Muslims, and perhaps not the main one; there have also been questions around the world about the presence of banned ingredients, such as pork products, in vaccines. Some have also expressed doubts about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine similar to those of some Catholic leaders, given that the cells used in its development and production had a distant connection to abortion.

Muslim healthcare workers, even those who have publicly encouraged people to be vaccinated, have acknowledged ethical difficulties.

These decisions are a matter of personal conscience, said Dr. Hasan Shanawani, president of the American Medical Professionals and a practicing pulmonologist in Michigan. But saving lives is one of the highest principles in Islam, he said, and given the current shortage of vaccines in many countries, the ethics for it were straightforward.

Dropping a vaccine means potentially endangering us all, said Dr. Shanawani, who has treated hundreds of patients with Covid-19 over the past year. Get the vaccine that is available to you. God is most forgiving. When the current urgency has passed, he added, then a person may be more discriminating as to which vaccine to receive.

Haaris Ahmad, president of a large and diverse mosque on the outskirts of Detroit, said he had heard all of these concerns. He has assured mosque members that scholars are in broad agreement that a vaccination will not break the Ramadan fast, and he has also told people that if the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the only option available, they should get it.

But he also acknowledged that people would no longer need to think about these things, especially during the holiest month of the Muslim calendar. So his mosque is hosting a vaccine clinic Monday night, which will allow people to receive two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shortly before the start of Ramadan in mid-April. And while the event was initially advertised in general language about vaccines, said Mr. Ahmad, the latest pilot includes clearer instructions on what to do not be on offer at the clinic: NOTE, reads, No J&J.

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