TORONTO -- As Ramadan begins for millions of people across Canada and the world, Muslim doctors are reminding their Muslim patients that they can get the COVID-19 vaccine without breaking their fast.

The month-long observance, which kicks off next week, is marked by weeks of fasting, prayer, abstinence from specific habits, and reflection. From dawn to sunset, observers aren’t allowed to have food or water.

“But people can take immunizations. It’s not a problem… they don’t break your fast,” Calgary-based family physician Dr. Islam Elawadly, who’s a practising Muslim himself, told in a phone interview.

Doctors tell that they field questions regarding vaccines every year, as some Muslim Canadians might incorrectly assume they contain sustenance -- which would violate a person’s fast.

But this year, “lots of questions” have been coming up during routine check-ups thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic according to Dr. Fozia Alvi, a family physician and founder of Humanity Auxilium, a non-profit group that provides medical supplies and health care to marginalized groups across the world.

“Sometimes I feel there is some hesitancy for my Muslim patients if they’re allowed to get vaccines. So for the past couple of days I’ve kind of been preparing them because this is a peak time,” she said, referring to the steady rise of active cases across the country.

But vaccine hesitancy has been reported among different pockets of the general public, including within some racialized groups.

Both she and Elawadly explain that COVID-19 vaccines -- or any vaccine administered through the muscle -- aren’t forms of food.

Alvi explained not everyone should fast, including young children, women who are pregnant, or those who are sick.

“If you have COVID, you have the licence specifically not to fast because you’re sick,” she said, advising people who want to fast to do so only if they have mild symptoms.

Elawadly further explained that -- according to the Quran, Islamic scholars and medical professionals -- other accepted reasons to break a fast, include if a person is elderly, travelling, starving, or if they’re potentially feeling weak after taking a vaccine.

And side effects are expected, according to the World Health Organization, with some taking the COVID-19 vaccine have reported side effects such as a fever; fatigue; chills; headache; muscle pains, especially at the injection site.

Dr. Mukarram Ali Zaidi, an epidemiologist and family doctor who works in rural Alberta, says “if they having a headache or have pain that cannot be tolerated, or they feel they’re about to vomit, then [it’s] permissible to break their fast, and then they can make up for that fast after Ramadan.”

He praised ongoing information sessions about Ramadan held by the Muslim Medical Association of Canada, which has been working with Imams and Muslim community leaders across the country to help tackle COVID misinformation and explain what’s permissible during fasting.

Elawadly also encouraged people still on the fence in regards to fasting and vaccinations to reach out to their local mosque to confirm what many Imams and faith leaders around the world are saying.

All three doctors encouraged Muslims -- like everyone else – should get the jab if they’re eligible.