JAKARTA: AstraZeneca said its COVID-19 vaccine contains no pork-derived ingredients, countering an assertion in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, that the drug violates Islamic law.
Indonesia’s highest Muslim clerical council, the Indonesia Ulema Council or MUI said on its website that the vaccine is “haram” because the manufacturing process uses “trypsin from the pork pancreas.” The council approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for use given the pandemic emergency.
The head of the council’s fatwa department Asorirun Niam Sholeh said the studies showed that the AstraZeneca vaccine uses pork-derived trypsin – which is needed to break down proteins – in its production.
“COVID-19 vaccine produced by AstraZeneca is haram because it uses pork-derived trypsin in its production,” Sholeh told a press conference on Friday. “Nevertheless, the use of COVID-19 vaccines produced by AstraZeneca is for now permissible.”
Sholeh said the use of the vaccine is permissible by Islamic laws because there is an urgent need to get people vaccinated immediately and the clean and halal substitution is not yet sufficient.
The permission to use COVID-19 vaccines produced by AstraZeneca will no longer be valid, he said when there is a sufficient supply of clean and halal vaccines.
The MUI is an independent organisation but its fatwas, or religious edicts, are followed by millions of people living in this Muslim-majority country.
AstraZeneca Indonesia director Rizman Abudaeri said in a statement: “At all stages of the production process, this virus vector vaccine does not use nor come in contact with pork-derived products or other animal products.”
Indonesian authorities on Friday approved the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine after reviewing reports that it had caused blood clots among some recipients in Europe. Indonesia is grappling with one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Asia with 1,455,788 cases and 39,447 deaths.
Indonesia has received 1.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine through Covax, the global alliance aiming to deliver coronavirus vaccines to the deveoping countries. It is set to receive another 10 million doses in the coming months.
Earlier this week, Indonesia halted the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine after more than a dozen countries in Europe suspended the vaccine due to blood clot concerns that affected recipients. The country aims to inoculate 181.5 million people in the country by the end of the year.