By Erric Permana, Nicky Aulia and Hayati Nupus
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AA) – Indonesian President Joko Widodo warned his ministers Monday not to rush the launching of a novel coronavirus vaccine amid public concerns about whether it would be certified halal, or permissible under Islamic law.
“We should consider public perception regarding the halal status of potential COVID-19 vaccines,” he said during a meeting.
Controversy over whether vaccines adhere to Islamic principles has stymied public health responses before in Indonesia, including in 2018, when the Indonesian Ulema Council issued a fatwa or ruling declaring that a measles vaccine was haram, or forbidden under Islam.
“Public communication regarding the halal status, price, quality and distribution must be well-prepared,” he added.
Widodo said the next critical point is administering the vaccines to the public.
He suggested providing a thorough explanation to the public regarding the priority of vaccine recipients as well as the reasons.
Vice President Ma'ruf Amin meanwhile said that the COVID-19 vaccines that will be distributed must receive halal certification from the authorities beforehand.
– Vaccine program to start next month
Indonesia will begin vaccination for approximately 9.1 million people as early as November this year.
“We will start the process after the Food and Drug Supervisory Agency issues an emergency use authorization,” said Achmad Yurianto, director-general for disease control at the Ministry of Health.
The country will use vaccines from three companies: Cansino, G42/Sinopharm and SInovac.
They have entered the final phases of their clinical trial third stage and are in the process of obtaining Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) in a number of countries while already obtaining the EUA from the Chinese government in July.
The Indonesian government is currently waiting for halal certification from the Indonesian Ulema Council for the vaccines.
Medical workers and public service personnel will be prioritized in the provision of COVID-19 vaccines.
According to Yurianto, Indonesia needs to procure 320 million doses for 160 million people to achieve herd immunity.
So far, the country has reported 365,240 COVID-19 cases, including 12,617 fatalities and 289,243 recoveries.
*Writing by Maria Elisa Hospita in Jakarta