One question that has arisen with the release of the new COVID vaccines is whether they are halal. Halal is a practice followed in the Muslim religion to ensure that food and other consumed products have been deemed acceptable and certified safe.
Many types of vaccines are made using gelatin derived from animals and egg whites. These products are used as a stabilizer to ensure the vaccine remains viable while it is stored. However, these food products are not always certified as being halal. As such, many Muslims will not get vaccines because they are considered haram, or forbidden, in Islam.
Are COVID vaccines safe for Muslims to consume?
Muslim scholars and religious leaders are taking a different approach with COVID vaccines. Unlike the gelatin commonly used in foods, sweets, and snacks, the gelatin in the COVID vaccines has been broken down into smaller molecules called peptides.
As such, scholars and religious leaders justifying getting the vaccine since the gelatin had undergone istihala – transformation. To further encourage Muslims to get the COVID vaccine, they are being reminded of the five goals in the Maqasid Al-Sharia – which includes the preservation of life.
As a result, many Muslims are putting public welfare during the global pandemic as a top priority. For instance, in Indonesia, the Ulema Council has determined certain COVID vaccines are halal. In other Muslim countries, things have not gone as well as there has been internal debate about this subject matter.
In the UAE and Egypt, for instance, religious leaders said following halal was more important than getting the vaccine. Yet, they are in support of the Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, and AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines.
All the pharmaceutical manufacturers have stated their vaccines were made using no animal products. The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, the British Islamic Medical Association, and the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America have approved those vaccines as being halal.
Have any vaccines been halal certified?
Presently, none of the COVID vaccines have been halal certified. However, as mentioned previously, there are several vaccines available that do not contain pork-based gelatin or animal products.
The pharmaceutical manufacturers that have certified their vaccines are gelatin and animal product-free. So, it should only be a matter of time before we start to see halal-certified COVID vaccines.
In Malaysia, they are expected to become the first county to establish halal standards for COVID vaccines, yet that may not be until later this year or even next year.
When will halal vaccinations be available locally?
Presently, COVID vaccines are available in many countries around the world. The governments in those countries are regulating when people can get the vaccine due to supply problems.
In regards to halal vaccinations, one would need to verify that the vaccine came from one of the aforementioned pharmaceutical manufacturers, as other pharmaceutical manufacturers, like those in China, have not released details about whether gelatin and animal-based products were used in their vaccines.
Will COVID vaccines be mandatory?
Currently, only Indonesia has stated it is considering a series of sanctions against individuals who refuse to get the COVID vaccination. This is in part because a good portion of the vaccine supply has been coming from China.
Even though the Ulema Council has called the vaccines as being halal, there are Muslims, who do not agree.In Jakarta, for instance, there are already regulations where anyone who refuses the vaccination can be fined five million rupiahs.
Conversely, in the UAE, the country chose to obtain Pfizer’s vaccine to get the support of the UAE’s Fatawa Council, which has said Muslims should get the vaccine since it does not contain haram ingredients. Presently, vaccinations in UAE are not mandatory, like in Indonesia.
Muslims are not the only ones with concerns about COVID vaccination. People of the Jewish faith are equally concerned about the ingredients in the vaccines because they must be Kosher, the Jewish equivalent to halal.
As COVID vaccine production continues to increase and the vaccine becomes more widely available, it is anticipated that halal certification will indeed take place.