Indonesia's MUI to issue fatwa on Covid-19 vaccine amid concerns over halal status

An official checks on Covid-19 vaccines as they arrive at PT Bio Farma (Persero) in the first shipment to Indonesia in Bandung.
An official checks on Covid-19 vaccines as they arrive at PT Bio Farma (Persero) in the first shipment to Indonesia in Bandung.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The authorities in Indonesia have finished a study on the halal status of a possible Covid-19 vaccine.

Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy said on Monday (Dec 7) that based on the halal requirement, the Indonesian Ulema (MUI) had finished its study on the Sinovac vaccine and would issue a fatwa soon, antaranews.com reported.

The study was done by the Indonesian Ulema Council Assessment Institute for Foods, Drugs and Cosmetics and the Halal Certification Agency.

Minister Muhadjir, who is also a leading figure in the country's second-largest Islamic organisation Muhammadiyah, called the global Covid-19 pandemic a life-threatening health crisis.

Therefore, drugs or vaccines without halal certifications can be used to avoid deaths when halal vaccines or drugs have yet to be found.

Mr Muhadjir explained that according to Islamic regulation, Covid-19 vaccines fall into the emergency category, meaning that all non-halal vaccines can be used in a crisis as it aimed to manage an emergency situation.

The halal status of potential Covid-19 vaccines has been a major concern for many.

Vice-President and senior Muslim cleric Ma'ruf Amin offered a similar statement in October, saying that the vaccine being prepared by the government did not have to be halal.

Vice-presidential spokesman Masduki Baidowi said Mr Ma'ruf's statement came during a meeting with Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan. The meeting discussed the progress of the vaccine being developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac in partnership with state-owned pharmaceutical firm PT Bio Farma.

"The Vice-President explained an important thing: If the vaccine is halal, then that's good, there's no problem. But if it is not halal, that's also not a problem," Mr Masduki said in a statement on Oct 2. "Because this is an emergency situation, it's okay to use (a non-halal vaccine)."

In October, Coordinating Economic Minister Airlangga Hartarto, who also helms the national economic recovery and Covid-19 response team, ensured that the Covid-19 vaccine would have halal certification.

Minister Airlangga explained that the government had consulted the MUI to ensure the vaccine would receive a halal certification.

In response to the issue, the government has cooperated with various Islamic organisations to support the upcoming nationwide Covid-19 vaccination programme amid uncertainty over the vaccine's halal status.

A leading expert at the Executive Office of the President, Mr Rumadi Ahmad, has urged Muslims not to get easily provoked by anti-vaccine movements claiming that the vaccine currently being developed is non-halal.

"Don't be easily provoked by such claims before related bodies have made official statements (on the vaccine's halal status). The government has cooperated with various (Islamic) organisations to ensure there is enough information on Covid-19 vaccines," Mr Rumadi said in a statement last month.

He explained that the vaccination programme was in line with Islamic teachings, so it should be supported.

"Vaccination is an effort to prevent or even cure a disease... Prophet Muhammad said every ailment has its remedy, but we need to actively search for the cure; it will not come to us by itself," he said.