The question of whether Covid-19 vaccines are vegan is perhaps not as straightforward as it sounds. According to the NHS, all Covid-19 vaccines provided in the UK do not contain any animal products. This includes the Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford AstraZeneca jabs. This means that, by ingredients alone, the vaccines appear to be vegan friendly.
However, the issue for many vegans is that there is a legal requirement for these vaccines to be tested on animals. This presents a moral dilemma for vegans when deciding whether to take the vaccine.
Should vegans reject the Covid-19 vaccine?
Currently, there is no legal requirement for individuals to have the Covid-19 vaccine. Should this situation change, it is likely that vegans would be able to apply for an exemption on the grounds of their ethical beliefs. However, this would be down to each individual to decide on the best choice for themselves.
The Vegan Society’s definition of veganism recognises that it isn’t always practicable or possible for vegans to entirely avoid participating in the use of animal products. This is particularly relevant when it comes to medicines, many of which contain animal products, use them in their manufacturing processes or involve animal testing. A statement from the Vegan Society on this can be read here.
Animal rights charity PETA UK recently published their position on this dilemma, which advocates that, since testing on animals is a legal requirement for the Covid-19 vaccines, vegans who refuse such medicines will not be helping animals who have either already been used in the process of vaccine development, or who will be used in the future for such purposes. They make the point that the goal of veganism is to advocate for animal rights and promote positive change for animals, going on to argue that keeping oneself healthy allows you to continue being an advocate for animals.
For many vegans, this is a hard pill to swallow (no pun intended). However, while the current reality cannot be bent, there may be some hope for the future…
A new hope for plant-based vaccines?
Biopharmaceutical company Medicago is currently developing a plant-based Covid-19 vaccine. Claiming to be a world-leader in plant-based vaccine development, Medicago’s vaccine is currently in stage three of clinical trials. Over 30,000 people are taking part in the trials. Interestingly, many vegans and vegetarians have shown interest in the trial in Argentina, which is one of the largest meat consuming nations in the world.
However, while plant-based vaccines may seek to eliminate animal products from the manufacturing process, the issue of animal testing in clinical trials will remain so long as it is a legal requirement – it cannot be avoided.
The hope is that, with many turning their attention to plant-based alternatives, there will one day be an entirely vegan-friendly vaccine. Sadly, this could be quite a way off.
The video below is worth watching.