It is widely known that Islam strictly prohibits consumption of pork. Many Muslims suspect that the Covid vaccines of Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca may contain pork-based products, namely pork-derived gelatin.
A few Islamic leaders have expressed their concern by writing to the WHO asking to disclose the contents of the vaccines.
The three vaccine giants have categorically denied the use of any pork-based or derived ingredients in their vaccine. Nonetheless, the suspicion still persists.
The point of concern is that usually pork-derived gelatin, though not used in the vaccine, is generally used as a stabilizer for the safe storage and transportation of the vaccines.
Islamic scholars are divided in their opinion about administration of vaccine to the Muslim community. The Raza Academy along with a few other notable Islamic organisations were said to have issued a fatwa against the use of the vaccine. This further aggravated the dilemma.
India, which has the second largest Muslim population in the world, is concerned about how this dispute would impact the already haphazard roll out of vaccines in our country.
The Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) was the first Muslim body in India to express its pro-vaccine views. JIH said, “Islam gives great importance to human life and also emphasizes on its protection.”
“If an impermissible object is transformed into another thing, totally different in properties and characters, may be considered as clean and permissible. On this basis, the use of gelatin derived from the body part of a haram animal has been considered to be permissible by Islamic jurists. Same is the opinion of some jurists about pork gelatin,” the JIH said.
This debate about the use of gelatin-derived pork in vaccines has occurred in the past too. Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis had developed a pork gelatin-free meningitis vaccine. But storing, transporting and maintaining the effectiveness of these vaccines had been challenging.
Dr. Harunor Rashid, an associate professor at the University of Sydney, believes that from past debates, majority of the Islamic people believe in this consensus – a greater ‘haram’ would occur if the vaccines weren’t used. Its use as medicine is permitted for saving lives.
Since the vaccine rollout is nearing and vaccine deals worth millions of dollars have already been struck with countries having large Muslim populations, countries like Indonesia await the vaccine programme even without the ‘halal’ certificate.
A similar religious dilemma has taken hold of other Abrahamic faiths such as the Jewish community, which too does not allow consumption of pork.