A controversial iman in Australia has asked Muslims not to get the potential COVID-19 vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, claiming that the vaccine is 'haram'- meaning forbidden.
Australia earlier this month announced a deal with AstraZeneca to manufacture the “promising” vaccine with plans to offer it for free to the entire population.
Sufyaan Khalifa in his YouTube video titled "A message to Aussie Muslims stand up: Follow the way of the Prophets" told Muslims in Australia about the method adopted by the company to develop the COVID-19 vaccine. He said the vaccine is made using foetal cells of an aborted baby in the 1970s and replicated in a laboratory.
Khalifa in his video said, “Shame on some Muslim bodies justifying the use of the vaccine. Shame on any imam who did sign this fatwah.”
His is the growing voice of religious figures who are against Australia’s vaccine deal with AstraZeneca.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
A senior Catholic archbishop also warned that he is “deeply troubled” by the COVID-19 vaccine deal, claiming that the potential vaccine uses a fetal cell line that creates an “ethical quandary” for Christians.
The Sydney's Archbishop Anthony Fisher wrote a letter to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, outlining concerns of some Christians over the COVID-19 vaccine and urged him to pursue other “ethical” vaccine candidates.
The letter was also supported and signed by Anglican and Greek Orthodox religious leaders.
Referring to the objection raised by the Catholics, Imam Khalifa said, “The Catholics have stood up against this clearly because they know it’s haram, it’s unlawful. But you stand with the government instead.”
Officials in Australia have said they respect the sentiments of religious communities and that that they are “investing in research and technology that we hope will produce a range of vaccines that will be suitable for as many Australians as possible”.
As Hindustan Times reported, another candidate in the list is the University of Queensland’s vaccine which has received Australian $5 million in government funding. The vaccine, which officials claim does not contain any fetal cell lines, is currently in Phase 1 efficacy trials.
The Oxford vaccine, however, is among a handful globally that have reached Phase 3 trails.Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.