JAKARTA – Many Americans assume that measles has been eradicated. The disease that once plagued us as school children is rarely seen in the United States today. A combination of events could change that, beginning with one halfway around the world in Indonesia.
Let’s begin by reviewing fundamental data about Indonesia shared in a recent Missions Box News story:
Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation in the world after China, India, and the United States and is the largest Muslim-dominated nation on the planet.
In addition, Indonesia has one of the highest rates of measles in the world.
Now let’s define three Arabic words closely associated with Islam and Sharia law that will appear in following paragraphs.
- Haram – forbidden under Islamic law
- Halal – lawful under Islamic law
- Fatwa – a ruling under Islamic law
In August of this year, the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI), the country’s ruling Islamic body, issued a fatwa declaring the measles-rubella vaccine haram even after the Indonesian Health ministry had declared the vaccine halal.
Almost 90% – 225 million – of Indonesians are Muslim.
A plan agreed upon between the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Indonesian Health Ministry to eliminate measles and rubella by 2020 included an ambitious campaign to vaccinate 67 million Indonesian children between the ages of nine months and 15-years-old. The first phase of the campaign in 2017 reduced the cases of measles and rubella by over 90%.
The plan came to a halt following the fatwa. The MUI declared the vaccine as haram because one of its components is a porcine gel. That is, the gel contains a stabilizer made from the skin of pigs. The gel protects the vaccine viruses during the freeze-drying process.
With the fatwa issued, there are already Muslim populations in other countries refusing to be vaccinated until one can be created that is declared halal. The lead scientist at the state-run Bio Farma in Indonesia has explained that non-porcine stabilizers exist. However, it would take at least six and as long as 10 years to develop and pass clinical trials. “In the meantime, many will be made ill and some may die avoidable deaths.”
In the meantime, measles and rubella epidemics have begun breaking out in other countries. Public health authorities in Thailand have reported more than 1,500 cases of the measles and 14 deaths since September in that country’s Muslim-majority southern provinces. Contrary to the MUI, the Central Islamic Council of Thailand has said that the medical benefit of the vaccine should take precedence over the fact that it contains elements that are haram.
The situation is equally concerning in Europe where more than 41,000 contracted measles during the first six months of 2018, a 700% increase over 2016. At least 37 died as a direct result of the disease.
Many Americans have begun refusing the vaccinations for their own children in response to the campaigns of anti-vaccination lobbyists. Those campaigns have been most successful in the Pacific Northwest and the state of Texas.
Peter Hotez, the Director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development at the Baylor College of Medicine, said,
“People forget that before kids were getting vaccinated, we had between 400 and 700 deaths from measles annually in the US.”
Dr. Albert Wu, professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health agreed that:
“This is a real setup for disaster since measles is insanely contagious. This is an accident waiting to happen.”
Please join with us at Missions Box News and Gospel for Asia in praying for wisdom for parents around the world to understand the dangers of not vaccinating their children against measles and rubella, whether it is because of religious edict or unfounded fears of any kind. Every life is precious in the Lord’s eyes. Let’s pray together for the world to be able to see others through His eyes of compassion.
- Science, Indonesian ‘vaccine fatwa’ sends measles immunization rates plummeting
- Breitbart, Islamic ‘Vaccine Fatwa’ Triggers Plunging Vaccination Rates in Indonesia
- The Washington Post, Muslim concern about vaccine fuels Thai measles outbreak
- IFL Science, A Measles Outbreak Is Sweeping Europe. The US Should Prepare for The Same, Medics Say
- By DFID – UK Department for International Development [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons