As the coronavirus pandemic continues to rampage around the world, new hope has come in the form of vaccines . But is the COVID-19 vaccine vegan?
This is the question a group of top vegan doctors have tackled in a video (below) – answering some of the most common concerns around the new injection.
Multiple organizations have created vaccines, with the vaccine being administered in countries including the United States and UK created by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.
According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), it is ‘currently offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people most at risk from coronavirus’. Patients require two doses of the vaccine, at least 21 days apart.
Priority patients include health care workers at high risk. Others include people who live or work in care homes, and some people aged 80 and over who already have a hospital appointment in the next few weeks.
But the vaccine has come under suspicion among anti-vaxxers, as well as other people who have questions about it.
These include how it has been developed so quickly and whether the vaccine is vegan as it has been tested on animals.
Vegan doctors and the COVID-19 vaccine
In a bid to address these issues, a group of highly-regarded vegan and plant-based doctors have created a video discussing some of the contentious issues around the vaccine.
Among the doctors on the video are Danielle Belardo, MD., Garth Davis, MD., Mauricio Gonzalez, MD., Sondema Tarr, DPM., Angie Sadeghi, MD., Robert Ostfeld, MD., Stacy De-Lin, MD., and Avi Bitterman, MD.
One of the issues the doctors raise is that the vaccine does not actually contain any ingredients of animal origin – however, many vegans have still raised the question of whether they should take it.
According to Dr. Gonzalez, a major issue when it comes to many vegans and vaccines is the belief that vaccines are unnatural. He said: “I think that a lot of vegans distrust vaccines because they seem too sci-fi. They think this is extremely unnatural – like this is something weird and foreign.
“I would like to add that it’s actually not – it’s actually genius. It takes advantage of our natural capacities. It just enhances our natural capacity…vaccines are as natural as eating an apple.”
Dr. Sadeghi added: “I’m so glad you brought that up. A lot of my vegan friends have been saying ‘how could you promote this? This is not natural’. I would tell them that they have no idea what we have to do in the front lines.
“When you come into the ICU and you’re sick with the infection itself, you’re going to get a ton of chemicals, a ton of medications. So if you really want to stay natural, go with the vaccine. It’s the most natural thing you could do to prevent the consequences of the disease.”
Another issue the doctors addressed was the speed with which the vaccine was created – and whether this should affect its safety or efficacy.
According to Dr. Davis: “One thing people have to understand is that we’ve been doing vaccines for many many years. The science behind vaccines has shown extraordinarily low long-term effects – extraordinarily low.
“Now do we know what the long-term effects are? Obviously we don’t. We haven’t had COVID-19 for a long time. But the actual mRNA (a type of vaccine) design of the vaccine has been worked on for decades. We have had other vaccine work done for covid type coronaviruses before.
“What people have to understand is that this vaccine does not go into your cells, and into your DNA, and recreate the virus. It simply creates a protein that goes on the cell that’s recognized, so it goes into your body and then it’s out. That vaccine is not in you 24 hours later. It is just simply the machinery of your own cells producing the protein. Once those cells have been attacked and killed, there are no more viruses inside your body.”
Is the COVID-19 vaccine vegan?
For many vegans, a crucial issue when it comes to the vaccine, is that it has been tested on animals. However, on balance, the doctors believe vegans should take the vaccine.
This guidance is also inline with The Vegan Society, which says: ” The definition of veganism recognises that it is not always possible or practicable to avoid animal use, which is particularly relevant to medical situations.
“In the case of Covid-19, vaccination will play a fundamental role in tackling the pandemic and saving lives. As all vaccines currently are tested on animals, at this stage it is impossible to have a vaccine that has been created without animal use.”
It adds: “We would like to make it clear that The Vegan Society encourages vegans to look after their health and that of others, in order to continue to be effective advocates for veganism and” other animals.
“As there is no plan for compulsory vaccination, it is the responsibility of each individual to make an informed decision about vaccines, bearing in mind the definition of veganism, with support from their local healthcare team.”
Vegan doctors and animal testing
Speaking about the vaccine, Dr. Bitterman says there was animal testing – as with any other medical product. Speaking specifically about the Pfizer vaccine, he says 106 animals in total were used in testing (and then killed). This breaks down into 64 mice and 42 macaque monkeys. When it comes to another vaccine (Moderna), he says the data isn’t as clear, but he believes the number to be similar.
However, he believes refusing to take the vaccine on animal testing grounds is not ‘analogous to rejection of other [animal] products, suggesting several reasons.
“Number one, you’re not creating more demand, so it’s not like when you look at cosmetic products,” he said. “If you purchase a cosmetic product that’s been tested a company that tests on animals, they have a tendency to say ‘okay we’re going to have our sales, and then we’re going to have another product that we’re going to put in the line once the sales peter out…and then we’re going to test on more animals.
“This is not how it works in pre-clinical testing for approved pharmaceuticals. The testing is already done. You taking the vaccine is not going to incentivize anyone else to test this vaccine on further animals.
“I’m not going to defend animal testing. I think it is unfortunate what happened to those animals. In many cases, if not all, the animals are euthanized…however, if you contrast that to the number of people saved, and the expected number of people saved, it’s astronomical.”