Concern for Muslims over Halal status of COVID-19 vaccine

In October, Indonesian diplomats and Muslim clerics stepped off an aircraft in China. While diplomats were to finalize deals to ensure millions of doses to reach Indonesian citizens, the clerics had a different concern: whether the COVID-19 vaccine was acceptable for use under Islamic law.

As companies race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine and countries scramble to secure doses, questions about the use of pork products – banned by some religious groups – concern about the possibility of interrupted vaccination campaigns Is raised

Pork-derived gelatin has been widely used as a stabilizer to keep vaccines safe and effective during storage and transportation. Some companies have worked for years to develop pork-free vaccines: Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis has produced a pork-free meningitis vaccine, while Saudi and Malaysia-based AJ Pharma are currently operating in one of their own Huh.

Secretary General of British Medical Medical, Dr. Salman Waqar said that the demand, the current supply chain, cost and the short shelf life of the vaccine not having porin gelatin meant that this ingredient was likely to be used in most years of the vaccine. Association.

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Spokespeople for Pfizer, Modern and AstraZeneca have stated that the pork products are not part of their COVID-19 vaccines. But millions of dollars of limited supply and poor deals with other companies mean that some countries with large Muslim populations, such as Indonesia, will receive vaccines that have not yet been certified to be gelatin-free.

It presents a dilemma for religious communities, including Orthodox Jews and Muslims, where consumption of pork products is considered religiously impure, and how the drug is banned, he said.

Waqar said, “Islamic scholars differ on whether you take something like pork gelatin and have to undergo drastic chemical changes.” “Is it still considered religiously impure to take you?”

The majority consensus from previous debates on the use of pork gelatin in vaccines is that it is permissible under Islamic law, since “greater harm” would occur if the vaccine was not used, Dr Harunor Rashid, an associate professor at the University of Sydney he said. .

A similar assessment is made with the broad consensus of religious leaders in the Orthodox Jewish community.

“By Jewish law, a ban on eating pork or using pork is forbidden only if it is a natural way to eat it,” said Rabbi David Staw, president of Tozer, a rabbinical organization in Israel.

If “it is injected into the body and not (to eat) through the mouth,” then “there is no prohibition and no problem, especially when we are concerned about diseases,” he said.

Yet there is a dissenting opinion on the issue – some with severe health consequences for Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, around 225 million.

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In 2018, the Indonesian Ulema Council, the Muslim clerical body that issues a certificate that a product is halal, or permissible under Islamic law, decided that measles and rubella vaccines were “haram”, or illegal, due to gelatin. Religious and community leaders began urging parents not to allow their children to be vaccinated.

“The cases of measles have subsequently suffered damage, making Indonesia the third largest measles in the world,” said Rachel Howard, director of the Healthcare Market Research Group Research Partnership.

A decree was later issued by the Muslim clerical body stating that it was permissible to receive the vaccine, but cultural taboo still continued to lower vaccination rates, Howard said.

“Our study has found that some Muslims in Indonesia feel uncomfortable accepting vaccines containing these ingredients,” even when Muslim authorities allow the issuance of guidelines, he said.

A man in the form of the ‘Halal’ logo of the Indonesian Ulema Council is displayed on the front of a restaurant in Jakarta, Indonesia. 11 November. As companies race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine and countries scramble to secure supplements, questions about the use of pork products – banned by some religious groups – concern about the possibility of interrupted vaccination campaigns Is raised (AP Photo / Tatain Siuflana)

The government has taken steps to address this issue. In Malaysia, where the halal status of vaccines has been identified as the biggest issue among Muslim parents, stricter laws have been enacted to allow parents to vaccinate their children or face fines and jail time. Had to do. In Pakistan, where the vaccine’s confidence has waned due to religious and political reasons, parents have been jailed for refusing to vaccinate their children against polio.

But with hesitation and misinformation circulating around the world, including in religious communities, Rashid said community engagement is “absolutely necessary.”

“It can be disastrous,” if not strong community engagement from governments and health care workers, he said.

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In Indonesia, the government has already stated that it will involve the Muslim clerical body in the COVID-19 vaccine procurement and certification process.

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo said in October, “Public communication about halal status, price, quality and delivery should be well prepared.”

While they were in China in the fall, Indonesian clerics inspected China’s Synovac biotech facilities, and clinical trials involving some 1,620 volunteers for the company’s vaccines are also underway in Indonesia. The government has announced several COVID-19 vaccine purchase deals, with the company totaling millions of doses.

Synovac Biotech, as well as Chinese companies Sinopharm and Casino Biologics – all of which have COVID-19 vaccines in late-stage clinical trials and deal with millions of supplements sold worldwide – responding to Associated Press requests for ingredient information Did not give

In China, none of the COVID-19 vaccines have been given final market approval, but more than 1 million health care workers and others deemed to be at high risk of infection received vaccines under the Emergency Use Permit Huh. The companies have not yet revealed how effective or potential side effects the vaccines are.

Pakistan is a late stage clinical trial of the CanSino Biologics vaccine. Bangladesh previously entered into an agreement with Synovac Biotech to conduct clinical trials in the country, but the trials have been delayed due to funding controversy. Both countries have the largest Muslim population in the world.

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While health care workers on the ground in Indonesia are still largely engaged in efforts to curb the virus as the numbers continue to increase, Waqar said government efforts to reassure Indonesians will be crucial to a successful vaccination campaign because COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for use.

But, he said, vaccine-producing companies should also be part of such a community.

“The more they are transparent, the more open and honest they are about their product, the more likely it is that there are communities that believe in the product and are able to discuss what they want to do Will be, “she said.

“Because, ultimately, it is the choice of individuals.”

Edna Tarigan, author of The Associated Press in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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