By William Casis

Sen. Imee Marcos on January 17 called on the government to ensure that Covid-19 vaccines are halal or permissible to millions of Muslim Filipinos, so that vaccines do not go to waste and more people can be immunized.

“Being mindful of religious and cultural beliefs will prevent losses in government spending and encourage vaccination,” Marcos said, citing that 47 percent of Filipinos surveyed by Pulse Asia were reluctant to take the vaccine.

“Consult with halal-certifying bodies like the Islamic Da’wah Council of the Philippines, which comprises of almost 100 Muslim organizations in the country, before finalizing the allocation of vaccines especially for BARMM  (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao),” Marcos advised.

Under Islamic law, the ingestion of pork and its derivatives is considered ‘haram’ or forbidden, even the pork-extracted gelatin used to stabilize many vaccines during storage and transport.

The vaccine ingredient led religious leaders in Indonesia in 2018 to declare the measles and rubella vaccines haram, resulting in fewer children being vaccinated and the country recording one of the highest infection rates in the world that year.

“It’s not enough that vaccines be cheap and withstand the many stages of transport to distant island provinces like Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi,” Marcos said.

Almost six million Muslims are Filipino citizens, based on a 2015 census by the Philippine Statistics Authority.

However, Dr. Dimapuno Datu Ramos Jr., spokesperson of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, said there could be as many as 15 million in the country today.