Indonesian ulema say AstraZeneca vaccine is ‘lawful' in case of emergency
by Mathias Hariyadi

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) issues its official opinion on whether the vaccine is allowed under Islamic law or not. The Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company denies that its drug contains derivatives of animal origin, in particular pig.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Responding to a recent controversy in the country, the powerful Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) ruled that the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 can be used in “emergency situations”.

At the heart of the dispute is not the efficacy and safety of the product, issues recently raised in Europe, but the possible presence of ingredients deemed unlawful (haram) under Islamic law.

The use of a vaccine against the novel coronavirus has been controversial and sparked clashes in Muslim majority countries, from Indonesia to Algeria.

Given the emergency situation, the authorities decided to give the green light to the drug despite lingering doubts and differences of opinion.

To solve the matter, the Ulema Council issued a fatwa (14/2021) to regulate the use of AstraZeneca, the vaccine made by British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca in cooperation with Oxford University, allegedly containing a pig derivative.

The company has strongly denied the claim, calling it unfounded, while the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has established that it is also safe for seniors.

Speaking of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the Ulema Council’s Fatwa Desk member Asrorun Niam Sholeh said that “It is okay now to use it.”

Yesterday morning, in a press statement, AstraZeneca rejected what it said was a false claim. “The viral vector vaccine production process stage does not use and come into contact with pork or other animal products,” the company’s Indonesia branch said in a statement.

“This vaccine has been approved in more than 70 countries including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Egypt, Algeria and Morocco, and many Islamic councils around the world [have] issue[d] the permission for Muslims to use the vaccine,” the statement added.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo also spoke about the controversy, noting that all Indonesian Muslim organisations, including Nahdlatul Ulam, have approved the use of AstraZeneca.

Indonesian Deputy Minister for Health Dante Laksono also tried to reassure the population about the vaccine’s safety. He also said that the latter will soon be distributed in various provinces and that it must be used by 31 May.