The Muslim Council of Britain ruled the treatment forbidden by Islam after parents were told the vaccine contained gelatin – which derives from pigs and is considered Najis (unclean).
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) is calling for the development of a halal vaccine after the UK government said the current vaccine is unpopular in Muslim majority areas.
The council said that Fluenz is not halal as it contains gelatin from pigs. Fluenz, a nasal spray that prevents the flu, is set to be given to every healthy child of primary school age in England.
The council also told the Telegraph today, July 29, that it was advising imams to tell parents that Fluenz is “not acceptable in Islam.”
“We have consulted the scholars and this is their view. Since then we have been giving people the information so that they can make their judgment,” said Dr. Shuja Shafi, the chairman of the MCB’s research and documentation committee.
“We need another vaccine which is halal and can be offered to all. We urge the government and the industry to make this happen,” he added.
Since the statement from MCB, Public Health England (PHE) has expressed fears over the number of parents withdrawing their children from the vaccine program since the Muslim Council of Britain made its announcement.
The Royal Society for Public Health backed the MCB’s statement, urging the government to offer a halal alternative vaccine acceptable to Muslims as the situation “adds to the risk of major flu outbreaks.”
PHE said there are no “suitable alternatives” to Fluenz “for healthy children.”
While there are currently injectable flu vaccines available that do not contain gelatin, they are not as effective and are “only recommended as part of the program for children and adults who are at high risk of the complications of flu.”
England’s National Health Service (NHS) is urging Muslim parents to consider making an exception because the vaccine can be “considered different from ingesting food.”
It pointed out that the many Jewish communities, who do not consume pork either, have said the spray is acceptable because it is not taken by mouth.
NHS also insists that the gelatine is purified to the point that it no longer contains traces of pig DNA.
Gelatin is used as a stabilizer to ensure vaccines remains safe and effective during storage. UK Health authorities gave a warning that changing the stabilizers in vaccines would require “extensive laboratory and clinical studies”.
“Because of this, developing a new safe and effective vaccine with a different stabilizer may take several years or may never happen.”