There are concerns among Muslim countries around the world regarding Coronavirus vaccines as pork-derived gelatin is widely used as a stabilizer in vaccines to ensure that they remain safe and effective during storage and transport, Associated Press has reported.
Spokespersons for Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca have said that pork products are not an ingredient of their Coronavirus vaccines. But circumstances are such, as a consequence of million dollar pre-existing deals and limited supply, that certain Muslim countries such as Indonesia will receive vaccines that are not yet certified to be gelatin free.
Aversion towards vaccines by the Muslim community due to their being ‘haram’ or containing pork products is not a new phenomenon. In 2018, the Indonesian Ulema Council, the highest clerical body in the country that issues halal certificates, declared that measles and rubella vaccines were “haram” because of the pork-derived gelatin.
The result? “Measles cases subsequently spiked, giving Indonesia the third-highest rate of measles in the world,” said Rachel Howard of Research Partnership. “Public communication regarding the halal status, price, quality and distribution must be well-prepared,” Indonesian President Joko Widodo had said in October.
Sinovac Biotech, one of the Chinese manufacturers of the Coronavirus vaccines, and other Chinese companies Sinopharm and CanSino Biologics refused to respond to AP’s queries about the ingredients of their vaccines. They already secured deals worth millions with Muslim countries around the world. Pakistan is conducting clinical trials of the CanSino Biologics vaccine, the trials are in late stage.
But there is still debate among Islamic scholars regarding whether a vaccine containing a pork-derived product could be halal after all. “There’s a difference of opinion amongst Islamic scholars as to whether you take something like pork gelatin and make it undergo a rigorous chemical transformation,” Dr. Salman Waqar, general secretary at the British Islamic Medical Association, said. “Is that still considered to be religiously impure for you to take?”
As we had reported earlier, the highest Muslim body in Indonesia is expected to issue a halal certificate for the experimental Coronavirus vaccine developed by China based Sinovac Biotech. The Indonesian Ulema Council Halal Product Guarantee Agency and Institute for the Assessment of Food, Drugs and Cosmetics had completed its study and a fatwa and halal certification is expected soon, Human Development and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy had told the media.