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21 Aug, 2018 17:45

Fatwa against measles vaccine issued in Indonesia as contagious disease cases skyrocket

Fatwa against measles vaccine issued in Indonesia as contagious disease cases skyrocket

Health-conscious holidaymakers considering a trip to Bali may rethink their destination, after Indonesia’s top Islamic body turned against vaccines for a virus that used to kill millions before preventive shots were introduced.

In a fatwa, or religious ruling, issued by the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI), the Measles Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine has been deemed “haram,” with the organization claiming that it contains traces of pork and human cells, both banned by the Islamic faith.

However, the fatwa also states that the vaccine will continue to be allowed while a viable alternative is found.

While not legally binding, fatwas, however, have a considerable influence on the population, with CNN Indonesia reporting that a number of towns had already suspended the vaccine before the MUI even announced their decision.

"If there's a MUI fatwa opposing it, that will be a real obstacle to public health efforts," Professor Tim Lindsey, the director of the Centre for Indonesian Law in the University of Melbourne, told Australia’s ABC network.

Earlier this year, a measles outbreak in Indonesia’s remote Papua provinces resulted in the deaths of around 100 children. Human Rights Watch blames the deaths on the lack of provision of adequate healthcare by Jakarta and urged the Indonesian health ministry to set up an effective vaccination program in the region.

The fatwa also comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) made a renewed plea for people to get the MMR vaccine, after over 41,000 cases were recorded in Europe in the first six months of 2018, more than double the amount recorded in the entirety of 2017. At least 37 people have died from complications related to the disease.

Those not immune to the disease can suffer from high fever, coughing, a runny nose, sore red eyes and a blotchy red rash. Further complications stemming from the virus that can cause death include pneumonia, meningitis, hepatitis, and encephalitis (infection and swelling of the brain).

Unvaccinated holiday makers were at particular risk, with Dr Mark Muscat of WHO's Vaccine-preventable Diseases and Immunization program attributing a significant number of reported cases in the UK and other European countries have been due to holiday makers bringing the disease back from countries with measles outbreaks.

Chaired by Ma’ruf Amin – who is now President Jokowo Widodo’s running mate in next year’s election – MUI’s fatwas committee had previously issued pronouncements against secularism, pluralism and liberalism, claiming that Indonesia's liberal democratic order was un-Islamic and inappropriate.

Another earlier fatwa against the former governor of Jakarta, the minority Christian-Chinese Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, often known as Ahok, saw over 150,000 Indonesians take to the streets in protest. Ahok was then controversially jailed on blasphemy charges for allegedly insulting Islam.

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