UAE gives exemption for non-halal Pfizer vaccine
A health worker administering a dose of the coronavirus vaccine to a senior in a medical center in the emirate of Dubai
The UAE's highest Islamic authority, the UAE Fatwa Council, has ruled that coronavirus vaccines are allowed for Muslims, even if they contain pig gelatin.
The ruling follows growing concerns that the use of pork gelatin, a common vaccine ingredient, could impede the vaccination of Muslims who consider the consumption of pork products to be "haram" or prohibited under Islamic law.
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If there are no alternatives, the council chairman Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayyah said the coronavirus vaccines would not be subject to the restrictions of Islam on pork due to the greater need to "protect the human body".
The council added that in this case the pork gelatin is considered a medicine rather than a food. Several vaccines have already been shown to be effective against a highly contagious virus that "poses a risk to society as a whole".
Dubai kicked off its Covid-19 vaccination program on Wednesday with a senior and a nurse who were among the first to be vaccinated with the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.
The United Arab Emirates, made up of seven emirates including the capital Abu Dhabi and Dubai, approved the vaccine's emergency registration on Tuesday, the day the first batch arrived from abroad, official WAM reported.
Dubai "launches Pfizer-BioNTech" Covid-19 vaccination campaign, "tweeted the Dubai Media Office, along with pictures of men and women receiving the sting.
The first phase of the rollout is aimed at citizens and residents over 60, adults with chronic illnesses, people with special needs, and frontline and other key workers.
Along with the older man and the older nurse, a paramedic, a police officer and a driver were among the first to receive the sting in Dubai. The vaccination is "free" for all citizens and residents.
The first batch arrived on an Emirates cargo flight from Brussels on Tuesday, WAM said.
"We were honored to have these vaccines transported free of charge on our flight," said the airline's chairman and chief executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum in a statement.
The Dubai Media Office announced that vaccinations will be available at six health authority facilities.
Earlier this month, the United Arab Emirates had already approved the vaccine developed by the Chinese drug giant Sinopharm, which it claims was 86 percent effective.
Manufactured by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, the vaccine, which has been shown to be 95 percent effective in late-stage clinical studies, is given in two doses 21 days apart.
The vaccine must be stored at -70 degrees Celsius, a temperature that is much lower than standard freezers and that has forced the company to develop special containers for transportation.
Participation in the UAE vaccination campaign is still voluntary, but officials have encouraged the population to vaccinate.
Two vaccines were tested in the United Arab Emirates in the third phase - the Sinopharm project and the Russian Sputnik-V, named after the satellite from the Soviet era.
The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, said in November that he had received an experimental coronavirus vaccine and had joined other senior UAE officials to participate in the trials.
The UAE has registered more than 197,000 cases of the novel coronavirus to date, including 645 deaths.
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