UAE Islamic body OKs vaccines even with pork

UAE Islamic body OKs vaccines even with pork
2 min read
23 December, 2020
The UAE Fatwa Council has said that the coronavirus vaccine is allowed under Islamic law, even if it contains pork gelatine .
The council said that not taking the vaccine would pose a greater risk [Getty]
The United Arab Emirates’ highest Islamic authority, the UAE Fatwa Council, has ruled that coronavirus vaccines are permissible for Muslims even if they contain pork gelatine.

The ruling follows growing alarm that the use of pork gelatine, a common vaccine ingredient, may hamper vaccination among Muslims who consider the consumption of pork products “haram,” or forbidden under Islamic law.

If there are no alternatives, Council Chairman Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayyah said that the coronavirus vaccines would not be subject to Islam’s restrictions on pork because of the higher need to “protect the human body.”

The council added that in this case, the pork gelatine is considered medicine, not food, with multiple vaccines already shown to be effective against a highly contagious virus that “poses a risk to the entire society.

Pork-derived gelatine has been widely used as a stabiliser to ensure vaccines remain safe and effective during storage and transport. 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 is currently working on one of their own.

Spokespeople for Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca have said that pork products are not part of their COVID-19 vaccines. But limited supply and preexisting deals worth millions of dollars with other companies means that some countries with large Muslim populations, such as Indonesia, will receive vaccines that have not yet been certified to be gelatine-free.

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In 2018, the Indonesian Ulema Council, the Muslim clerical body that issues certifications that a product is halal, or permissible under Islamic law, decreed that the measles and rubella vaccines were “haram,” or unlawful, because of the gelatine. Religious and community leaders began to urge parents to not allow their children to be vaccinated.

“Measles cases subsequently spiked, giving Indonesia the third-highest rate of measles in the world,” said Rachel Howard, director of the health care market research group Research Partnership.

A decree was later issued by the Muslim clerical body saying it was permissible to receive the vaccine, but cultural taboos still led to continued low vaccination rates, Howard said.


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