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Imee: Ensure COVID vaccines are ‘halal’

SENATOR Imee Marcos called on the government to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are ‘halal’ or permissible to millions of Muslim Filipinos, so that vaccines do not go to waste and more people can be immunized.

Being mindful of religious and cultural beliefs will prevent losses in government spending and encourage vaccination,” Marcos said, citing that 47% of Filipinos surveyed by polling firm Pulse Asia were reluctant to take the jab.

Consult with halal-certifying bodies like the Islamic Da’wah Council of the Philippines, which comprises almost 100 Muslim organizations in the country, before finalizing the allocation of vaccines especially for BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao),” Marcos advised.

Vaccines already granted EUA (emergency use authorization) in Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and Indonesia might also be better received by our Muslim brothers and sisters, whether in Metro Manila or Mindanao,” Marcos added.

Under Islamic law, the ingestion of pork and its derivatives is considered ‘haram’ or forbidden, even the pork-extracted gelatin used to stabilize many vaccines during storage and transport.

The vaccine ingredient had led religious leaders in Indonesia in 2018 to declare the measles and rubella vaccines ‘haram,’ resulting in fewer children being vaccinated and the country recording one of the highest infection rates in the world that year.

The success of the government’s vaccination plan against COVID-19 will demand more sensitivity. It’s not enough that vaccines be cheap and withstand the many stages of transport to distant island provinces like Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi,” Marcos said.

Almost six million Muslims are Filipino citizens, based on a 2015 census by the Philippine Statistics Authority.

However, Dr. Dimapuno Datu Ramos Jr., spokesperson of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, said there could be as many as 15 million in the country today.