Pork gelatine used in nasal vaccines

30th Nov 2018
Pork gelatine used in nasal vaccines

Pork gelatine flu spray concerns (Photo: Airman 1st Class Malissa Lott/CC)

People are putting off getting vaccinations because of the continued use of pork gelatine in vaccines and medicines the Chief Executive of the Vegetarian Society, Lynne Elliot said.

She said that there is a need for vegan and vegetarian alternatives to common medicines so that people did not feel conflicted about using them on religious or ethical grounds. “When the demand for vegetarian and vegan products is growing so rapidly it is disappointing so many medicines and vaccines still use animal ingredients in their formulation.”

The three vaccines which contain porcine gelatine are Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR): Fluenz Tetra, a nasal flu vaccine; Zostavax, a shingles vaccine; MMR Vax Pro for measles, mumps and rubella.

All are available on the NHS as part of the national immunisation programme.

Alternatives for the gelatine stabiliser are said to exist, however, once a stabiliser has been chosen for a medical product, any change to that recipe could potentially require years of testing.

The Public Health England (PHE) told the BBC that the gelatine is used as a stabiliser and developing an alternative “may never happen.” They further added that the pork product used is ‘highly purified’ and manufactured under ‘strict hygiene and safety regulations’.

Though a gelatine-free injectable flu jab is available, it is ‘less effective’ than the nasal vaccine, said PHE spokesman.

The Muslim Council of Britain said the vaccines are not permitted in Islam unless lives are at risk and there are no alternatives.

Dr Shuja Shafi, Chair of the Council’s Research and Documentation Committee, said, “There should be more work towards an alternative. We should be trying to find a long-term solution. The needs of the people must be met.”

Dr Shafi advised anyone concerned about the use of gelatine in vaccines to consult a medical practitioner and make an “informed decision”.

The number of MMR vaccines given in Britain has reduced for the fourth year in a row. The number of measles cases has increased this year by more than 200 per cent, 828 measles cases were confirmed in England this year up to August 13, compared to 274 throughout 2017.

There is a concern of a drop in the vaccination rates across the UK and Europe.

The rates are at an all-time low since is the vaccine-autism scare of the early 2000s. When, now disgraced gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield, sparked fears of vaccines with his 1995 theory that the MMR vaccine was linked to bowel disease and autism. The fraudulent information led to a drop in the number of parents allowing their children to be given the vaccine.

A spokeswoman from PHE said the nasal flu vaccination is not mandatory and the decision is “one for parents alone”.

“We recognise that there is still some uncertainty among some groups about the acceptability of the nasal spray.

“We will continue to monitor these concerns and consider them carefully.”

She added that there are injectable flu vaccines that do not contain pork gelatine but are slightly “less effective” than the nasal vaccine because they may require two doses and do less to reduce the spread of flu. It should, therefore, be administered only as an alternative for those “who are at high risk of the complications of flu” and who refuse the recommended first choice vaccine.

Elliot said that, while the Vegetarian Society was calling for a move away from gelatine, it was not recommending that people were not vaccinated. “Many people will be conflicted about the idea of having to take non-vegetarian medicines, and some will find it upsetting,” she said.

Aqila Mumthaz

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