Considering that Muslims comprise more than 60% of the Malaysian population, and with the increase in halal awareness in recent years, it is only logical for Malaysia to consider having the Covid-19 vaccine to be halal-certified right from the start.
Furthermore, the Department of Standards Malaysia (DSM) under the International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti) had developed the world’s first ISO-level standard as the guidelines for the manufacturing of halal pharmaceuticals, i.e. the MS2424, way back in 2012. This was revised in 2019 to include the manufacture of halal vaccines.
The working group that developed this standard comprised experts who had undergone the Halal Malaysia certification process and some had also audited vaccine plants.
If Malaysia can pre-book the vaccines for use by its population, would it also be possible for a combo pharma-GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) and halal audit to be performed at the same time as the vaccine is undergoing the process of being registered with the Health Ministry’s Drug Control Authority (DCA)?
Another option is to initiate collaboration with the country/company which the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry (Mosti) or Health Ministry has identified as the source for the Covid-19 vaccine supply now so that compliance can be ensured right from the development stage.
Nevertheless, if the product is already in clinical trial, then any rectification from the results of the trial could also incorporate the halal compliance aspects should they be minor ones. These actions could aid in expediting the availability of halal Covid-19 vaccines.
Thus, I would suggest that the public-private partnership comprises:
1. Health Ministry (medical and pharmacy sections), Jakim (halal and fatwa sections) and Mosti representing the public;
2. Duopharma Biotech Berhad and Pharmaniaga Berhad representing the private sector; in addition to
3. Other members of the MS2424 Working Group representing the remaining stakeholders.
The international aspects should come from the involvement of the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) and the Prime Minister’s special envoy to the Middle East. These parties should garner support from Muslims from this region via the ministries of religious affairs of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, the Middle East and other Islamic countries via the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) to magnify and significantly multiply the demand for halal Covid-19 vaccines. These will then have the domino effect of increasing the purchasing power of the allied governments, which can make the vaccine more affordable for the rakyat.
Since Malaysia possesses the fill and finish facilities, we can lead the bulk purchasing orders, which would result in competitive pricing. At the same time, this initiative would strengthen our leadership in global halal pharmaceutical capability by having the Halal Malaysia certification on the vaccines that would be re-exported to these countries.
God willing, the benefits can be enjoyed by all stakeholders. The government would not have the headache of halal being made an issue by anti-vaccination groups and, more importantly, Muslims would have peace of mind.
These benefits would surely create and drive the demand; henceforth, the economic returns can be enjoyed by all stakeholders and, of course, the rakyat as well.