From 8 p.m. Friday to 1 a.m. Saturday, an Arab American social services group, ACCESS, is hosting a vaccine clinic in Dearborn, a city where almost half of the residents are Muslim. It may be the first time in the U.S. a COVID-19 vaccine clinic has been delayed until after midnight to help reach a specific religious group during a holiday.
During Ramadan, which started earlier this week, observant Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. The fasting generally includes refraining from eating food and drinking water or other liquids. And for some, the fasting may include not getting an injection.
Others often stay up late during Ramadan month, spending more time after sunset with others or at religious services.
“#RamadanMubarak to all those observing!” ACCESS said on Twitter this week. “To accommodate those (who) are participating, we are hosting an evening Pfizer #COVID19 vaccination clinic on Friday…”
There’s a debate among Islamic scholars as to whether getting injections violates the fasting restrictions. Some say it does and recommend that injections — such as getting a vaccine shot — should be done after sunset. But others, including two prominent Muslim leaders in metro Detroit, say a vaccine shot during the day doesn’t violate fasting rules of Ramadan.
“Islam does not forbid taking the vaccine during fasting hours and therefore, Muslims have the choice to take the vaccine during daytime or any time of the day,” Imam Hassan al-Qazwini, the leader of the Islamic Institute of America in Dearborn Heights, told the Free Press. “I also encourage Muslims to take COVID-19 vaccine and not listen to unsubstantiated, unscientific rumors that discourage taking the vaccine.”
Al-Hujjah Islamic Seminary, which came out of the Islamic Institute of America, issued a statement last week that said “taking a vaccine shot does not invalidate the fast. It is not a form of eating or drinking. You may fast and take the shot, and your fast will be valid.”
Officials at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, one of the oldest and largest mosques in Michigan, released a statement Saturday explaining its views on getting vaccinated during fasting hours.
“It is obligatory to avoid feeder needles and serum needles while fasting, if possible, but rather obligatory to avoid any needle in the vein even if not an intramuscular,” the Islamic Center of America said in its Facebook post. “However, if it is not possible to avoid such injections, one should complete their fast and then make it up. By mandatory precaution, if one cannot complete the fast, they may break it and then make it up at a later time.”
The ACCESS clinic late-night Friday accommodates those who often hang out and socialize after hours during Ramadan. In Dearborn, the streets often come alive at night, with many attending restaurants or mosques for gatherings.
This week, the Dearborn City Council approved Ramadan pop-up food stands that restaurants can establish during the 30 days of Ramadan. The gatherings will not be as big as before the pandemic due to social distancing.
Dearborn has 11,472 COVID-19 cases as of Thursday, the highest in Wayne County outside of Detroit, according to Wayne County data. In contrast, Livonia, another Wayne County city with the same population size of roughly 94,000 residents, only has 6,967 cases.
The city of Dearborn has been working with several groups and mosques to reach communities on the margins such as the elderly and immigrants who may not speak English. ACCESS is providing Arabic speakers at its vaccine clinics. The Dearborn Fire Department teamed up with ACCESS to visit senior citizen homes to reach people who may be homebound, reported the Arab American News.
© Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press Henry Ford Health System RN Ali Mathena, 27, administers the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to a man during a vaccination clinic as part of an outreach initiative by Henry Ford Health System at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn on Monday, March 8, 2021. The clinic is part of the health system’s initiative to get vaccines to communities that are vaccine hesitant due to rumors and disinformation about COVID19 vaccines.
There have been COVID-19 clinics at the Islamic Center of America, Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights, the Islamic Center of Detroit, Unity Center mosque in Bloomfield Hills, and the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs mosque in Canton. Other faith and ethnic groups in Michigan, such as Catholics, Protestants, Hindus, Chaldeans and others, have been holding vaccine clinics in local churches and temples.
The Imams Council of Michigan issued a statement last month calling upon Muslims to minimize “their exposure to COVID-19 by adhering to the basic guidelines of wearing masks, practicing social distancing and taking all other necessary safety measures.”
The Council also said it “unanimously agreed to” support the COVID-19 vaccine, urging Muslims to get the shots.
There has been at least one other late-night COVID-19 vaccine clinic in the U.S. In Atlanta, a stadium offers vaccines as late as 10 p.m., reported Fox 5 Atlanta. But local leaders say they haven’t heard of a clinic as late as 1 a.m. geared toward a specific group.
Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi, the spiritual leader of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights, said that Muslims can take the vaccine anytime during Ramadan, including in daylight hours.
There is “no objection in our Islamic jurisprudence on vaccination while fasting,” Elahi told the Free Press. “The nullifiers of fasting are things like eating, drinking, sexual activities, and based on some of our scholars’ opinions, even smoking. Vaccination is not on the list of invalidators of fasting.”
Elahi said that some Muslims “mistakenly think that vaccines may harm their fasting conditions.”
He added that “some fasting individuals may feel tired and weak after going to a vaccination place” and so if they wish to get the vaccine at night, like at the ACCESS clinic, that is fine, too.
Muslims have “the options of day and night. They can register and choose if they prefer to come during the day or after the iftar,” the daily dinner at sunset during Ramadan that breaks the fast. “What matters is to take the medicine, time doesn’t matter.”
Contact Niraj Warikoo at firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-223-4792. Twitter @nwarikoo
A COVID-19 vaccine clinic with Pfizer shots will be held from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday at ACCESS Clinic, 6450 Maple St, Dearborn. Call 313-216-2200 to make an appointment.