Malaysia continues to propel itself as a halal hub – most recently with plans to develop a halal-vaccine manufacturing centre.
New Straits Times reported that Pharmaniaga Bhd, will be investing RM100mil in establishing facilities to manufacture and commercialise halal vaccines over the course of the next 2 to 3 years, that will be centred in Puchong, Selangor.
A collaboration by the Ministry of Finance’s Technology Depository Agency (TDA) and Delhi-based Hilleman Laboratories, the halal vaccine centre is set to be commercialised within 5 years according to Pharmaniaga managing director, Datuk Farshila Emran. It will specialise in producing vaccines for several kinds of diseases chiefly diphtheria and meningitis.
Although this seems like a huge step for Malaysia in becoming the world’s first main importer and exporter of halal vaccines, several problems arise from it. Like the anti-vaccination trend that is currently prevalent in Muslim communities here. It has been on a steady rise because some families tend to be susceptible to rumours that come with baseless information, sourced from the unfiltered world of social media. This will deter the market growth (and access) of halal vaccinations.
Or maybe, the general skepticism towards Western medicine in this part of the world would help the growth of the halal vaccination industry.
We honestly don’t know if that would be a good or bad thing. Aren’t regular Western vaccines already halal?
When it comes to receiving halal vaccinations, Ahmad Badri Abdullah, researcher and writer from the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS), believes that the problem derives from the absence of a standard definition of what is considered halal in several countries, thus forming different takes on the meaning itself. Some countries define halal as the prohibition of ingredients which has porcine or alcohol in them, and some requires the manufacturing tools, raw materials and processes to be up to the halal standards. So with all this confusion in mind, some Muslim families would explicitly reject any forms of current vaccinations provided.
Malaysia’s Health Minister, Datuk S. Subramaniam said that the ministry will keep a close eye on the safety of the vaccines whilst the halal endorsements will be, naturally, overseen by Malaysia’s Department of Islamic Development (JAKIM).
Moderate Muslims in Malaysia believe that as long as the ingredients and the processes used in making vaccinations are in accordance to halal standards, it is alright. While existing vaccines do contain alcohol, it is permissible because alcohol is not the end product, rather it is used as part of the catalyst process.