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PETALING JAYA, July 28 — Amid debate on the necessity for vaccination, two Islamic scholars called today for more Muslims to venture into the pharmaceutical line to develop halal vaccines.
Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia director of centre for science and environment studies, Dr Shaikh Mohd Saifuddeen and research fellow, Ahmad Badri Abdullah from International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies, both said there was a need to do so for the practice to be better accepted by Muslims in Malaysia who have rejected conventional vaccines for fear it contains non-halal substance.
"Currently among the issues why Muslims reject immunisations is because they claim they are not halal so if we need to have more companies in Malaysia manufacturing halal vaccines... it will gain these people;s trust," Shaikh said.
Ahmad Badri said halal vaccines should also be packaged properly to distinguish it from others.
"The makers must also be Muslims and these vaccines should, of course, be made into fatwas," he added.
Shaikh and Ahmad Badri were speaking at a forum titled, "Vaccination and Health — the Islamic Perspective", together with Dr Faridah Abu Bakar, deputy director of family health in the Health Ministry’s family health development division.
At a later news conference, Shaikh said it would take about 15 years to develop a halal vaccine and that it would cost at least three times more.
"I received this information from a scholar from the US who is doing a research on halal vaccines," he said.
However, he conceded that he could not explain how halal vaccines would be different from conventional ones that are now available in the market.
Malaysia was reported to be building the world's first halal vaccine facility in Bandar Enstek, Nilai at an estimated cost of RM330 million. According to the report by national newswire Bernama last December, the plant will be operational by early 2018.
When asked for comment, Dr Faridah said she was unaware of how the operator of the plant was going to create halal vaccines.
"Maybe they would adopt the same approach as others or maybe they would tweak in terms of substances, I'm not sure," she said.
The vaccination issue has been making headlines in Malaysia after some parents openly declared their opposition to immunise their children against preventable diseases on grounds that certain vaccines were not halal or unsafe to be taken and may lead to undesirable side effects.
While there has been no concrete evidence to suggest that vaccines are unsafe and could cause harm, the Health Ministry has also not made immunisation compulsory despite support from some groups.
Its minister Datuk Seri Dr S Subramaniam recently said he hoped all pupils will be vaccinated before they are enrolled for the next Primary One intake.
He hoped that this would be part of the enrolment requirement to ensure parents did not overlook their child’s immunisation.
He said 1,500 parents had refused vaccination from the ministry which was looking to overcome this by sending the correct message to the public.