British public health officials are concerned by the number of Muslim parents who could refuse to let their kids receive the flu vaccine after the Muslim Council of Britain ruled the drug to be ‘non-halal’ and forbidden by Islam.
From August, all kids aged between 2-10 will be offered the nasal spray vaccine to combat outbreaks of the virus, with the drug Fluenz being credited with having helped significantly reduce cases of the flu. Last year, winter deaths from the virus hit a 42-year high.
However, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the largest umbrella group of mosques and Muslim associations in the UK, had ruled Fluenz forbidden as it is made with gelatine derived from pigs, an animal considered unclean in Islam. A spokesman for the MCB told The Telegraph that it was advising imams to tell parents that the vaccine is "not acceptable in Islam".
Chairman of the MCB’s research committee, Dr Shuja Shafi, added: "We've consulted the scholars and this is their view. Since then we've been giving people the information so that they can make their judgement.
"We need another vaccine that's halal and can be offered to all. We urge the government and the industry to make this happen."
The government says that the gelatine is purified to the point that no pig DNA remains.
Last year, the Vegetarian Society said the use of the pig-origin gelatine was "upsetting", but didn't advice vegetarian parents to deny kids the drug.
Public Health England documents seen by The Telegraph reveal concern from health professionals that uptake of the vaccine's already "significantly lower" amongst Muslim kids than average, with the document saying: "Vaccine uptake's significantly and independently associated with increasing deprivation, ethnicity and areas with the largest Muslim populations."
The decision by Muslim parents proves problematic for senior citizens and other vulnerable people in Britain, as children are considered "super-spreaders" and could pass on the flu virus to individuals with a lower immunity, that could be fatal.
The Royal Society for Public Health said the trend "added to the risk of major flu outbreaks" and advised the government to work on a halal-alternative for Muslims.