Indonesia's Muslims ask if the vaccine is halal

Indonesia's Muslim council is set to issue a ruling on whether a COVID-19 vaccine is halal, as many fear public resistance unless it is proven to be permissible under Islam.

Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim-majority country and it plans to launch vaccinations of China's Sinovac Biotech on January 13.

But a health official said the government would first wait for a decision from the Indonesian Ulema Council or MUI.

Muti Arintawati is the Director of the Global Halal Centre:

"Every Muslim should consume halal products and avoid those that are 'haram'. And certainly, it doesn't only apply to food and drinks but also medicine."

Indonesia is struggling with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in Southeast Asia.

The New York Times reported that Sinovac told Indonesia's state-owned drugmaker Bio Farma that the vaccines were manufactured without “porcine” materials that come from pigs.

Bio Farma's corporate secretary confirmed receiving the statement but said the halal status was decided by MUI.

Some Muslims - like this resident - believe that it is okay to consume non-halal products in emergency situations.

"I am a Muslim but due to the fact that this is an emergency situation, I'm fine with it because it is for the good of many people. It's better to use the vaccine to avoid having more victims."

Indonesia's food and drug agency need to issue emergency use approval for vaccinations to start.

But controversy over whether vaccines adhere to Islamic principles has hindered public health responses in the past.

In 2018, the MUI issued a fatwa declaring that a measles vaccine was forbidden under Islam.

President Joko Widodo has said he will be the first to receive the vaccine shot next week in a bid to boost acceptance.