Jakarta. The Indonesian Ulema Council, or MUI, has allowed the country's Muslims to receive a government-sponsored vaccine for measles and rubella, despite its containing porcine gelatin.
The decision should end long controversies and help the government's effort to establish herd immunity to the diseases. It was explained by MUI as necessary
"First, it's an emergency situation. Second, there is no other halal [religiously permissible] MR vaccine available. Third, we received explanation from competent and trusted experts regarding the dangers of skipping immunization," MUI's Fatwa Commission Asrorun Ni'am Sholeh said on Monday evening (20/08).
The government wants to reach at least 95 percent of Indonesians to establish herd immunity against measles and rubella and eradicate the diseases by next year.
The Ministry of Health recorded 6,890 cases of measles in 2016, five of them fatal.
A vaccination program was launched last year, compelling more than 66.9 million children between 9 months to 15 years of age to get MR shots.
The ministry sourced the vaccine from Serum Institute of India and appointed state-controlled firm Bio Farma for its procurement and distribution. Immunization sessions were scheduled for August and September in 2017 and 2018.
However, early this month the MUI Riau branch raised concerns over the vaccine, as it has not been labelled as halal by the council. This created a national backlash, with many parents refusing to have their children vaccinated.
The ministry then decided to downscale the vaccination program, only giving shots to children whose parents do not oppose it, while waiting for the council to certify the vaccine.
After long discussions, which began on Friday, MUI decided to allow MR vaccines, but also expressed hope that the government would "make a maximum effort" to create or find its halal equivalent.
Health Minister Nila F. Moeloek welcomed the decision and said the government will continue its vaccination program.
"Health is the right of every child. Therefore, the Minister of Health requests that every child should undergo MR immunization," Nila said in a statement.