Three Halal vaccines to be ready by 2017

Traditionally, the term Halal – which means permissible in Arabic – covers food and drink. Nowadays, other goods and services are also certified as Halal, including cosmetics, clothing, tourism, financial services and pharmaceuticals.

The concept of Halal vaccines is something that has been sought after and highly anticipated over the past few years by millions of Muslims worldwide. In early April 2014, a leading Malaysian corporation, working together with Saudi Arabian investors, announced plans to provide the world’s first Halal vaccines by 2017.

A Saudi corporation will be investing $100 million and working in collaboration with Malaysia’s Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC) to develop vaccines for meningitis, hepatitis and meningococcal disease within three years. In particular, the need for Halal meningitis vaccines is high, as it is required for those who head to Mecca for Hajj – the annual Muslim pilgrimage. Meningitis is an infection of the protective thin lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, which can cause complications such as brain damage, deafness and learning problems.

Vaccines are biological preparations that provide immunity to certain diseases. Currently, vaccines for meningitis, hepatitis and meningococcal disease which are produced in the West have some components that are made up of pig extracts (pork-based); and pork is forbidden in Islam. The producers of the Halal vaccines have promised to exclude pork from the manufacturing of the vaccines, and local and international scientists will be working alongside Shariah experts to produce the Halal vaccines from extracts of animals that have been slaughtered according to Islamic teachings.

This joint venture conducted by two Islamic countries is bound to be a success. According to the Malaysian Minister of International Trade and Industry, “the Halal vaccines will help alleviate fears and doubts among Muslims on the integrity of the products”. Pork-free vaccines are bound to be in high demand, not only among Muslims worldwide, but others as well, who do not consume pork.

After developing the three vaccines for meningitis, hepatitis and meningococcal disease, the HDC is planning to continue to produce other types of vaccines. HDC also aims to standardize Halal certification for all Muslim countries.

Aalia Mahdi