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Muslim scholars: AstraZeneca COVID vaccine haram, Muslims should get it anyway

AstraZeneca has said its vaccine does not contain pork products.

NEW ORLEANS — As governments all over the world work to expand COVID-19 vaccine distribution, many people are anxiously waiting for when they can register to receive one, but some are reluctant because of religious conflicts with vaccine production.

Catholic clergy in New Orleans & St. Louis recently advised parishioners to avoid the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine because it may contain cell lines created from abortions.

A council of Muslim scholars in the world’s most populous Muslim nation issued an edict on AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine Friday, saying it was “haram,” or forbidden in Islam, because it contains a pig derivative  — but they told Muslims to get the shot anyway.

In December, the Catholic Church said Catholics with little access to alternatives can take the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, saying that getting vaccines that do not pose an ethical dilemma is not always possible.  

Unlike Catholics, Muslims do not have a global organized religious institution, and most other Muslim scholar councils have not come to the same conclusion.

"Haram" or not, Indonesia's highest Islamic body declared: It's an urgent situation, and Muslims should take the vaccine they can get.

But AstraZeneca's director of global media relations, Matthew Kent, said the vaccine does not contain pork products.

"AZD1222 does not contain any animal/human derived product, including no porcine-derived products," Kent said in an email to WWLTV.com.

Indonesia's Council of Ulema said it conducted its own studies, finding pork-derived trypsin — which is needed to break down proteins — in AstraZeneca   production 

"It is important to note that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine, is a viral vector vaccine that does not contain products of animal origin, as confirmed by the British Medicines and Health Products Authority," AstraZeneca said in a statement.

Asrorun Niam Sholeh, from the Indonesia Ulema Council, said trusted experts have explained the dangers posed by people not being vaccinated while "halal"  vaccines — those permissible in Islam — are lacking, the Associated Press reported.

“Indonesian Muslims must participate in the COVID-19 vaccination program implemented by the government to achieve herd immunity and be free from the COVID-19 outbreak,” Sholeh said.

The edict or "fatwa" came after the country's drug regulator declared it safe after blood clotting concerns were raised in Europe.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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