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Are flu vaccines Kosher (or Halal, which follows similar principles)?

We would always advise you to seek appropriate religious advice, but the following facts may help inform this for you.

Standard injected vaccines

Standard vaccines are made from viruses that are grown in culture (in order to yield sufficient quantity to turn into vaccines). All flu viruses need mammalian cells in which to grow. The standard flu vaccine production method is to inoculate “seed” virus into embryonated (i.e. fertilised) hens’ eggs. Hens are kosher animals, and hens’ eggs are kosher. The situation regarding embryonated hens’ eggs might be a little more complicated, but these should be kosher also – Jewish law permits eating eggs found inside a chicken, and these may well be fertilised or embryonated.

We do vaccinate a great many observant Jewish and Muslim patients, who have never found themselves in difficulty about this aspect of the vaccine.

Other points to consider:

  1. Having grown in culture, the virus particles are extracted, killed and purified, so it is very doubtful how much actual egg material remains in the vaccine – only a trace at most.
  2. Jewish law specifically permits anything to be done in the cause of saving life, and flu vaccine is certainly in this category.

Fluenz – the live vaccine currently offered to children – contains traces of modified pork gelatin, and therefore raises concerns about acceptability to observant Muslims and Jews, especially given that alternatives are available.

Jewish religious authorities have however concluded that Fluenz should be regarded as Kosher, since it is administered by nose, is modified from its original form, and provides an important benefit to health.

Furthermore, kosher principles are considered to apply to dietary laws and eating, not injection or inhalation for medical rather than nutritional purposes.

Injected cell culture “egg-free” vaccines

There are now also vaccines available that are “egg-free” – made in cell culture, partly to avoid the issue of egg allergy. These vaccines are made in cell culture lines grown originally from canine kidney cells. However, the considerations discussed above also apply here, especially since most people opting for the egg-free vaccine would be doing so in order to reduce the possibility of a potentially serious allergic reaction.

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