UAE Islamic Body Approves Coronavirus Vaccines with Pork Gelatin

A nurse prepares to administer the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at a drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination centre in Hyde on December 17, 2020 in Manchester, England. The coronavirus drive-through vaccine centre is believed to be the first in the world. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s highest Islamic authority has issued a ruling allowing Muslims to receive coronavirus vaccines containing pork gelatin, the Emirates News Agency reported Tuesday.

The consumption of pork products is considered haram, or forbidden, for Muslims according to Islamic law. Despite this, the UAE Fatwa Council issued an Islamic ruling, or fatwa, this week explaining that Muslims are allowed to receive coronavirus vaccines containing “non-halal,” or non-permissible, ingredients such as pork gelatin in the absence of alternatives.

Council Chairman Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayyah cited the higher need to “protect the human body” during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The council noted the pork gelatin in this case is considered medicine, not food.

“Coronavirus vaccination is classified under preventive medicines for individuals, as recommended by the Islamic faith, particularly during times of pandemic diseases when the healthy happen to be prone to infections due to the high risk of contracting the disease, therefore posing risk to the entire society,” the UAE Fatwa Council said, according to Saudi Arabia al-Arabiya.

“Since COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] is a highly contagious disease that puts thousands of lives at risk, the use of the vaccines are acceptable,” Emirates News Agency cited the council as saying.

Pork-derived gelatin is widely used in vaccines as a stabilizer; it is meant to ensure vaccines remain safe and effective throughout transport and storage.

The UAE Fatwa Council’s ruling this week comes amid growing concern that the use of pork gelatin in coronavirus vaccines may hamper immunization efforts among Muslims. Islam considers the consumption of pork products to be religiously unclean.

In Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, some Muslims still hesitate to receive vaccinations containing pork gelatin “even when the Muslim authority issues guidelines saying they are permitted,” the Associated Press reported on December 20.

The governments of other Southeast and South Asian nations with large Muslim populations, such as Malaysia and Pakistan, have responded to such reluctance by enacting stricter laws requiring parents to vaccinate their children or face penalties including fines and jail time.

Indonesia has already said it will include the nation’s top Muslim clerical body during the government’s coronavirus vaccine procurement and certification process.

“We should consider public perception regarding the halal status of potential COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] vaccines,” Indonesian President Joko Widodo said in October.

“Public communication regarding the halal status, price, quality and distribution must be well-prepared,” Widodo added.

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