Indonesian ‘vaccine fatwa’ sends measles immunization rates plummeting

8 November, 2018

Below are extracts from a news item in Science. Full text here:

Indonesian ‘vaccine fatwa’ sends measles immunization rates plummeting

Millions of parents around Indonesia have eschewed the [measles-rubella (MR)] vaccine in recent months, after Islamic clerics declared the MR vaccine "haram," or forbidden under Islamic law because pig components are used in its manufacturing. Vaccine coverage has plummeted as a result, alarming public health experts who worry that the world's largest Muslim-majority country could see new waves of measles and more miscarriages and birth defects resulting from rubella infections during pregnancy...

There is no ready alternative; no MR vaccines have been certified as halal anywhere. (Indonesia's previous measles vaccine didn't have a halal certificate either, which has not hampered its use.) Arifianto Apin, a Muslim pediatrician in Jakarta who advocates for vaccination within the Indonesian Pediatric Society, says education may help. Clerics in many Muslim countries have concluded that gelatin in vaccines is halal because it has undergone hydrolysis, a chemical transformation that purifies it under an Islamic legal concept called istihalah. And in 2013, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore declared a rotavirus vaccine halal despite the use of trypsin; it ruled that the enzyme had been made pure by dilution and the addition of other pure compounds, which is known as istihlak. If Muslim parents learn about the diverse legal views within Islam, Apin says, "they won't hesitate to vaccinate their children."...

WHO, however, is steering clear of the religious debate and won't recommend the development of a halal vaccine. "WHO works with regulatory authorities and manufacturers to ensure vaccines have the highest standards of safety and efficacy," the spokesperson says. "We don't assess vaccines on other criteria."


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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 18,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on five global forums in three languages. He also currently chairs the Dgroups Foundation (, which supports 800 communities of practice on international development, health and social justice. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: /