BY CAMILIA REZALI
Duopharma Biotech Bhd has articulated to the Russians to obtain halal assurance for the Sputnik V vaccine if it is required . “ We asked the Russian
Direct Investment Fund ( RDIF ) and Gamaleya Institute to find an authorised body in Russia to issue a halal classification . This body should be recognised by the Malaysian authorities ,” said Duopharma Biotech Group Managing Director Leonard Ariff Abdul Shatar .
Duopharma Biotech recently entered into a term sheet agreement with the Russian Direct Investment Fund ( RDIF ) to secure 6.4 million doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine for 3.2 million Malaysians . RDIF is the marketing agent for Gamaleya National Research Institute of Russia , which developed the vaccine .
Duopharma Biotech has also signed a term sheet agreement with Malaysia ’ s Ministry of Health ( MoH ) to supply the 6.4 million doses .
“ In a way , we are lucky because the Sputnik V doesn ’ t have any animal by-products in it . The vaccine comes from a common cold virus . From that perspective , I would say it should be reasonable to get halal assurance for Sputnik V if required .
“ In serious situations which affect social healthcare and wellbeing , questions are raised
whether the medications are halal , is it safe for consumption , and what should the Muslim patient do ? This is where healthcare practitioners and clerics have come to an understanding .
“ A special meeting of the Muzakarah Committee of the Fatwa National Council for Islamic Religious Affairs , which convened on Dec 3 , 2020 , has taken a resolution that the use of Covid-19 vaccine is obligatory ( wajib ) to be taken by the groups identified by the government and permissible ( harus ) for others .
“ Similar fatwa has been issued by other religious authorities worldwide where the use of Covid-19 vaccine is permissible ( harus ) to be taken by Muslims . They are the Al-Azhar al-Syarif University ( Egypt ), the Fatwa Council of the United Arab Emirates , Majma ’ Fuqaha ’ al-Shari ’ ah ( US ), the British Islamic Medical Association ( BIMA ) and the Office of the Mufti of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore ( MUIS ),” said Leonard Ariff .
For the record , in 2018 , the Ministry of Health ( MoH ) Malaysia published the guideline on using medicines or drugs from an Islamic perspective . The relevant agencies , including the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia ( Jakim ), are developing the framework for halal-certified vaccines .
Quest for halal vaccine
Leonard Ariff said if there was a demand for a halal vaccine , it should come earlier in the development cycle of vaccines rather than after
In a way , we are lucky because the Sputnik V doesn ’ t have any animal by-products in it . The vaccine comes from a common cold virus . From that perspective , I would say it should be reasonable to get halal assurance for Sputnik V if required .”
manufacturing has started .
In general , research and development of pharmaceutical products do not put in the effort to identify if a product is halal simply because they are not required to do so unless there is a demand for it .
“ The more Muslims demand for halal products , the more researchers will start taking into consideration at the early stage of research , rather than after the product has been registered . It will be challenging for them to go backwards and make it ‘ halal ’.”
“ Per the current pandemic , the approach that has been taken by the fatwa councils is correct because the vaccination is not just about protecting ourselves . It is also about protecting people in general . It all goes back to the concept of life preservation .
“ Society has a commitment to the preservation of life . Therefore , I do not think there is an argument to say which vaccine is halal and which is not .”
A key halal player
On the size of the halal vaccine market in Malaysia , Leonard Ariff said the value of Malaysia ’ s vaccine market in 2020 was approximately RM300 million , which was considered small .
Considering the wide range of vaccines , Malaysia would technically require four different technologies , which entails more significant expenditure should the country seek total self-sufficiency . Therefore , investing in the manufacturing of halal vaccines commercially is only viable in some form of private-public partnership .
Leonard said “ halal ” was part of the prerequisites in Duopharma Biotech ’ s product development plans and a pillar in Duopharma ’ s 7-year Strategy Plan , and the company had several projects in the pipeline , including specialised vaccines .
Duopharma Biotech Bhd is one of the most prominent players in halal pharmaceuticals in Malaysia . It became the first manufacturer in Malaysia to obtain halal certification from Jakim in 1999 under health supplements .
In early 2017 , it achieved another critical milestone when it received accreditation as the first company to obtain halal certification for prescription medicines .