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Measles is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by the measles virus. Symptoms usually develop 10–12 days after exposure to an infected person and will last 7–10 days. Small white spots known as Koplik's spots may form inside the mouth two or three days after the start of symptoms. Vaccination as a prevention from this virus resulted in a 75% decrease in deaths from measles between 2000 and 2013, with about 85% of children worldwide being currently vaccinated.
According to ABC News, Indonesia's peak Islamic body issued a religious decree — or fatwa — declaring the Rubella-Measles vaccine to be "haram" or religiously forbidden. The Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI) justifies the ruling by claiming the vaccine contains traces of pork and human cells, which are banned in the Muslim religion.
“We’ve found ourselves in a position where we have no choice … there has not been a vaccine found to be halal and sacred,” an MUI official told CNN Indonesia. He said the religious organization understood the dangers associated with not getting children immunized.
However, CNN Indonesia reported that a number of towns have already suspended the vaccine before the MUI even announced their decision.
Tim Lindsey, the director of the Centre for Indonesian Law in the University of Melbourne, told ABC News that the fatwa would undoubtedly make accessing the vaccination more difficult in Indonesia.
However, the fatwa also states that the use of the product will be allowed for the time being due to the lack of viable alternatives. The problem is that fatwas are very powerful among Muslims, and if people already have any doubts at all about the vaccine — now they also have a religious excuse for avoiding them.
Fatwas are not legally binding in Indonesia, however declarations from the MUI are highly influential. “If there’s a MUI fatwa opposing it, that will be a real obstacle to public health efforts,” Professor Lindsey said.
A lower percentage of vaccinated children can severely endanger the whole population. For example, as of September 2017 a measles epidemic was ongoing across Europe, especially Eastern Europe. In Romania, there were about 9300 cases of measles; 34 people who were all unvaccinated died of measles. This was preceded by a 2008 controversy regarding the HPV vaccine. In 2012, a doctor named Christa Todea-Gross published a free downloadable book online. The book contained misinformation about vaccinations from abroad (translated into Romanian) which significantly stimulated the growth of the anti-vaccine movement.