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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 26 February 2021

UK to adjust inoculation campaign to account for Ramadan

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi warns a ‘tsunami of misinformation’ is hindering inoculation campaign

The UK will adjust its coronavirus campaign to account for Ramadan, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Tuesday.

Ministers are looking to future phases of the vaccine campaign after the top four priority groups, representing 15 million people, were offered a vaccine by Monday’s deadline.

Medical officials are considering whether people should be made priorities for vaccines based on their ethnicity and profession during the next stage of the staggered distribution strategy.

The proposal came as officials grow increasingly concerned over “a tsunami of misinformation” leading to public reluctance to take the vaccine.

Authorities have also raised concern over slow take-up of the vaccine among medical staff, while scientists have been forced to dispel claims that the coronavirus drug adversely affects fertility among women.

Mr Zahawi said those who were hesitant or outright refused to take the shot were “heavily skewed” towards minority groups.

He acknowledged that Muslims may be reluctant to receive their first shot because injection of the second dose would take place during Ramadan, which begins on April 12.

The UK allows for a 12-week delay between vaccine shots, so those who receive their first dose in the next few weeks would receive their second while they are fasting.

“Ramadan is something that we’ve got to make sure that the system adjusts to be able to deal with that,” he told Sky News.

“Faith leaders in the Muslim community have come out very clearly … they have come forward and said: “Take your vaccine, it protects you’.”

Mr Zahawi said that the government had plans in place for vaccine distribution during Ramadan, which begins on April 12, but did not say when they would be announced.

“We know that black and ethnic minority communities are disproportionately impacted by this virus, so come forward and take this first dose and we’ll make sure we accommodate any issues around Ramadan, or any other religious festival, to make sure that you can get your second dose safely and in the correct way,” he said.

Muslim authorities in the UK advised the faithful that taking the vaccine during Ramadan does not compromise the principle of fasting. Getty
Muslim authorities in the UK advised the faithful that taking the vaccine during Ramadan does not compromise the principle of fasting. Getty

The National asked the Department of Health for further comment on how it will deal with the issue.

The British Islamic Medical Association said it was acceptable to receive a coronavirus vaccine during Ramadan.

“Taking the Covid-19 vaccines currently licensed in the UK does not invalidate the fast, as per the opinion of Islamic scholars,” it said.

“Individuals should not delay their Covid vaccinations on the account of Ramadan.”

Mr Zahawi said 89 per cent of people took a vaccine in the UK when offered one, while 11 per cent were “vaccine hesitant”.

He confirmed that the government had asked the vaccine taskforce - the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation - to study whether vaccines should be prioritised based on ethnicity and profession during the next phase.

Ministers are aiming to offer a vaccine to everyone aged over 50 and all adults in at-risk groups by May.

“We think it’s right to ask the question over who should be prioritised next,” Mr Zahawi told the BBC.

However, government sources told The Telegraph that ethnicity was more likely to be targeted in the next phase rather than the type of worker - such as teachers, police officers or supermarket workers - because it could “create too much complication” and slow down vaccine distribution.

People from black and ethnic minority groups are more likely to die from Covid-19, data suggested.

Sir Simon Stevens, head of the NHS, promised that the pace of vaccination would double between now and April.

People aged 65 to 69 are being called to receive the vaccine after everyone in the top four groups was offered a shot.

Ministers have not yet set out how the vaccines will be prioritised among the remaining adults in the top nine categories - about 21 million people.

Updated: February 16, 2021 04:56 PM

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