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  4. Opinion | Avoid spreading rumours about pork gelatin in Covid vaccines

Opinion | Avoid spreading rumours about pork gelatin in Covid vaccines

Even as the world is grappling with new deadly variants of Coronavirus by clamping travel restrictions, a section of Indian Muslims led by some clerics is raising the bogey of the Covid-19 vaccines being ‘anti-Islamic’ because of reported use of pork gelatin.

Rajat Sharma Rajat Sharma @RajatSharmaLive
New Delhi Updated on: December 24, 2020 16:51 IST
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Image Source : INDIA TV

Opinion | Avoid spreading rumours about pork gelatin in Covid vaccines

Even as the world is grappling with new deadly variants of Coronavirus by clamping travel restrictions, a section of Indian Muslims led by some clerics is raising the bogey of the Covid-19 vaccines being ‘anti-Islamic’ because of reported use of pork gelatin.

On Wednesday, leaders of nine Muslim organisations including All India Jamiatul Ulema, Jamaat Ulema Ahle Sunnat, Anjuman Barkate Raza, All India Masjid Council, Darul Uloom Hanafia Rajvia and Raza Academy, met in Mumbai and decided that they would seek the opinion of experts whether the Covid vaccines are ‘halaal’ (Islamic) or ‘haraam’(un-Islamic) because of reports that pork gelatin has been issued while preparing these vaccines. The Islamic clerics said they would then decide whether to ask members of the Muslim community in India to accept Covid vaccines or not.

The Muslim scholars said that any vaccine containing pork was not permissible for Muslims under Islamic laws. The ulemas said that any vaccine made from pork gelatin must not be administered to Muslims. They were reacting to news reports that the Chinese Covid vaccine named Sinovac is derived from pig gelatin and was not acceptable to Muslims. The secretary-general of Raza Academy Saeed Noorie said there are reports of the Chinese Covid vaccine containing parts of a pig’s body. “As pig is haram for Muslims, a vaccine containing pig gelatin cannot be allowed”, he added.

Noorie read out a decision (fatwa) from the Qazi of Mumbai Hazrat Mufti Mehmood Akhtar, which said, “even if the hair of a pig falls in a well, water from that well is forbidden for Muslims. Hence according to Islamic law, a vaccine that contains pig gelatin cannot be used as a treatment for any disease.” In a video statement, Saeed Noorie appealed to the government of India not to import the Chinese Covid vaccine Sinovac. He said, “if any vaccine is ordered or made in India, the government should give a list of ingredients used for making the vaccine to the ulemas so that they can make announcements for use of that vaccine”.

The decision of Indian ulemas is diametrically opposite to the latest ‘fatwa’ used by the Fatwa Council of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that said Covid vaccines are permissible for Muslims. The chairman of the UAE Fatwa Council Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah has said that Covid vaccines would not be subjected to Islamic restrictions on pork “because of the higher need to protect the human body”. The UAE Fatwa Council said that pork gelatin is considered as medicine, and not food, and these vaccines have already been shown to be effective against a highly contagious virus “that poses a risk to the whole society”.

In contrast, most of the ulema attending the Mumbai meeting on Wednesday had an opposite view. They included Mufti Manzar Hasan Ashrafi of Raza Academy, Maulana Aizaz Ahmed Kashmiri, Maulana Imran Attari, Maulana Gulzar Ahmed Qadri and Maulana Sheikh Nazim. These clerics said that vaccines that have been made from pork gelatin are un-Islamic and cannot be used by Muslims.

 
In medicine, gelatin is a collagen protein obtained by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments and/or bones with water. Gelatin is normally obtained from animals including pigs. Gelatin is used to protect vaccine viruses from adverse conditions like freeze-drying or heat, particularly during transport and delivery. Gelatin is also used in jelly products, jelly candies, yoghurt and bubble gum. There are however several pharma companies that do not use gelatin for transportation of vaccines.

Top vaccine makers like Pfizer, Moderna and Astra Zeneca have clarified that they do not use gelatin for their vaccines, but the Maulanas are wary. They are saying that so long as the vaccines are not properly investigated about their ingredients, they cannot arrive at a firm decision.  They point out to the world’s largest Islamic country, Indonesia, which imported Chinese Sinovac vaccines in a hurry, but then decided not to use them as they contained pork gelatin which was “un-Islamic”. Let me be clear. India has not imported nor does it intends to import the Chinese Covid vaccine.

I want to tell those who are spreading baseless rumours that the authorities in Dubai have already begun mass vaccination against Coronavirus. Pfizer vaccines have been transported from the USA to UAE via Brussels. The UAE government has decided to inoculate all citizens with Covid vaccines, free of cost. Mass vaccination centres have already started working throughout Dubai.

Already the social media is flooded with fake videos raising questions about the efficacy of Covid vaccines. Maulana Noorie of Raza Academy was speaking about two such videos, which we at India TV tried to cross-check. He said, a nurse in England fell unconscious after being administered Pfizer vaccine. We cross-checked and found that the nurse was not from England, but from Tennessee, USA. On December 17, she took the vaccine and when she went to address the press conference, her head started reeling and she fell down. The nurse, Tiffany Dover, was one of six persons who were administered the vaccine that day.

Busybodies on social media spread the rumour that she had died after taking the vaccine. The truth is: on Tuesday, the hospital where Tiffany used to work, issued a video in which she was shown to be fit and working. Tiffany disclosed that she occasionally used to have panic attacks. She had a medical history of panicking on seeing injection needles. The incident on December 17 had nothing to do with the administering of Covid vaccine, she clarified.

In another video on social media, it was claimed that four volunteers in the US were struck with facial paralysis after they were given Covid Pfizer vaccine. The fact is: the video was stolen from the website of a surgery center in Boston. The surgery center clarified on Twitter that this video had nothing to do with Covid vaccine. There were old videos of patients suffering from facial paralysis. The US Food and Drugs Administration confirmed that this video had nothing to do with Covid vaccine trials.

I want to appeal to all: do not trust videos that are circulated on social media in which outlandish allegations are being made. Already rumours are being circulated among Indian Muslims to create false panic by pandering to religious sentiments.

Muslims in India must know that the UAE Fatwa Council has declared the vaccines as medicine and not food, and the lives of millions are at stake. The Prime Minister of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Deputy PM of Dubai Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Health Minister of Egypt Hala Zayed, have all taken Covid vaccines. The Health Minister of Bahrain Faeqa bint Saeed Al Saleh has also taken the vaccine.

They are known figures from the Islamic world and they will never commit any un-Islamic act. The three major pharma companies which have made the vaccines have denied use of pork gelatin. Muslims should trust their words and stop listening to baseless rumours.

As for the fake videos doing the rounds on social media, I can say only this: these viral videos are more dangerous than the real virus. Do not blindly trust videos that circulate on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and other platforms. Let us check out facts, and follow the right path outlined by scientists, doctors and medicine specialists. Once the vaccines are administered on a massive scale, be sure: the war against Covid will be won, at all costs.

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