Did you hear about the recent MUI frenzy over the swine thing?
No, it doesn’t have anything to do with the flu. Instead, the knowledgeable scholars heated up the op-ed section of local newspapers by fussing about meningitis, particularly the Mencevax ACWY meningococcal meningitis vaccine produced by GlaxoSmithKline that was recently reported to contain a type of porcine enzyme called trypsin.
As it were, foreigners entering Saudi Arabia are required to be vaccinated against meningitis, because the country has seen a number of outbreaks of the contagious disease in the past. However, it is said that no meningitis vaccine is free from materials derived from swine.
Alas, the ever alert Food, Drugs and Cosmetics Assessment Board of the MUI (”LPPOM MUI”) found out that, well, the vaccine contained the swine-derived trypsin, and promptly blasted out the Pig-Signal to warn the faithful who are currently making their preparations for this year’s hajj season.
But surely, somebody else would have already known about this, right? Right.
The MUI had questioned the vaccine producer about the treatment in 2007, at which time the Health Ministry’s consultative assembly on health and Shariah law found material from pigs in the vaccine.
And they did something about it, right? Right.
GlaxoSmithKline responded to the inquiry by producing a vaccine free of pig-derived material.
In fact, …
In February 2009, the Belgian company declared that “no trypsin [or other materials of porcine origin] is used in the production of the new Mencevax vaccine.”
And in a statement signed on Monday, the company’s local unit also declared that as of 2009, no animal-derived materials were being used in the production of the vaccine, which is sold in 59 countries, including Muslim nations like Malaysia, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
In addition, even though trypsin was in fact used in producing the vaccine, Head of Food and Drugs Monitoring Agency (”BPOM”) Husniah Rubiana Thamrin Akib said during a hearing with the parliament that the enzyme would only be used in the early production process, and the final product would no longer have it.
So what’s the fuss all about? Mr. Nadratuzzaman who heads LPPOM MUI said:
The one saying that the vaccine is good is the manufacturer. They have to be audited. We should come to their manufacturing facility so we can see all the manufacturing processes from start to finish. We can’t just accept what they say.
Of course, he would also want the government to foot the bill, because GSK’s manufacturing facilities are in Belgium. While you’re at it, why not add in some allowance too to make the trip more enjoyable.
Let me just share a story I heard from a very old friend about an Islamic sage who had to lead a group of religious students on their trip to a conference in Europe. Once the conference was over, the group went to a dinner in a fancy local restaurant, courtesy of the host. None of them understood what was on the menu because they didn’t understand the local language. So the sage just pointed at a fulfilling-looking meal someone was having at a table next to them.
A serial nitpicker among the sage’s students couldn’t help but raised an issue with what the sage did. So he went and whispered to another student next to him that the meal might contain pork, and if the sage ate it, he would be committing a sin. The other student started to feel uneasy and talked to another student about it, and it went on as the meal arrived on their table.
One of the students finally asked the host if the meal did indeed contain pork, and the host confirmed it. When the student who asked the host told the sage about it, the sage had almost finished his meal, and said, “Well you’ve ruined the fun. Now we sin, because we know the meal contains pork.”
The moral of the story is: Don’t be a nitpicker, just shut up and take things in good faith.