Covid-19 Vaccine: Halal Status and Ethical Issues in Distribution
Speaker 1: Prof. Dr. Zhari Bin Ismail, Honorary Professor, School of Pharmaceuticals Sciences (USM)
Speaker 2: Mr. Amrahi Buang, President, Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS)
Speaker 3: Dr. Mohd. Hapiz Mahaiyadin, Senior Lecturer, Academy of Contemporary Islamic Studies (ACIS, UiTM)
Moderator: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil, Deputy CEO, IAIS Malaysia
Issues regarding the halal status of the newly-developed COVID-19 vaccines arose after an announcement made by Khairy Jamaluddin, the Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, who said that such vaccines would be available during the first quarter of next year. Netizens' concerns regarding the halal status of these vaccines have received myriad responses from authorities, including the Pahang Mufti, Abdul Rahman Osman, who said that the halal status of the vaccine is important to ensure peace of mind among Muslims.
Consequently, on 7 October, the Halal Development Corporation (HDC) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Hairol Ariffein Sahari, indicated that standards to certify halal vaccines, including for COVID-19, will be available by early next year.
Other than public health concerns revolving around safety, efficacy, and distribution mechanisms, vaccination also instigates complex socio-religious controversies. While some Muslims feel that it is their right to demand halal vaccines, for others, non-Muslims among them, such demand is unnecessary as (for them) the main focus of vaccination is safety and efficacy.
In term of distributions, guidelines released by the WHO dictate that health care workers, the elderly, and the most vulnerable should be prioritised in receiving the first batches of vaccine. Due to receiving the vaccine early next year, Malaysian authorities have announced its willingness to comply with such a proposal.
Nevertheless, several ethical concerns were raised. For instance, it is argued that while the elderly would benefit the most from vaccination, prioritising them may not maximise the overall live-saving mission. Some has argued that allocating more to children, who are most responsible for transmitting the COVID-19 virus, may confer a greater benefit to society. Therefore, among the ethical discourse of the COVID-19 vaccination allocation programme would be finding the balance between prioritising individual and societal interest.
In discussing these two dimensions of COVID-19 vaccination—the halal status of vaccines and the ethical concerns regarding their distribution—this forum features several prominent experts from pharmaceutical and religious backgrounds.
PowerPoint Presentations (in PDF format)
Watch the recording of this webinar at IAIS Malaysia's Facebook Page