AstraZeneca reassures Muslims its coronavirus vaccine is pork-free

UK-based drug company forced to counter rumors after Indonesian Muslim council issues a fatwa, saying the vaccine is ‘haram’ – not kosher.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The British-based biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca rejected allegations that its coronavirus vaccine used pork-derived products that violated Islamic dietary laws, Reuters reported Sunday.

The company was forced to issue a clarification after the Indonesian organization that certifies products as “halal,” permissible to eat by Muslims, ruled last week that the AstraZeneca vaccine is “haram” – the equivalent of being not kosher. The council ruled that the manufacturing process uses the substance “trypsin” that is derived from pigs.

“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,” AstraZeneca Indonesia director Rizman Abudaeri said in a statement received by Reuters.

Both Muslims and Jews are forbidden by religious law from consuming any product made with ingredients derived from pigs. However, while Judaism forbids orally ingesting pork or bacon, medicines derived from pigs are permitted.

Despite the AstraZeneca statement, the Majelis Ulama Indonesia council posted the fatwa (religious ruling) on its Facebook page Sunday, reiterating that “the Astrazeneca vaccine product is haram because in its production process it uses trypsin which comes from pigs.”

“Nevertheless, the use of COVID-19 vaccines produced by AstraZeneca is for now permissible,” the head of the council’s fatwa department, Asorirun Niam Sholeh, said in a press conference Friday.

Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country with 206 million of its 238 million people following Islam, so a religious ruling that the coronavirus vaccine violates Islamic law could have a wide impact.

On Friday, Indonesian authorities authorized the resumption of the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine after a short period of suspension as experts reviewed reports that the vaccine may have caused blood clots in some people who received the injection.

Indonesia is grappling with one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Asia, with 1,455,788 cases and 39,447 deaths as of Saturday. Channel News Asia reported.