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The Vegetarian Society has branded the use of pork gelatin in three NHS vaccines in national vaccination programs ‘disappointing’, according to the BBC.

Vaccines against flu (Fluenz Tetra), shingles (Zostavax), and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR VaxPro) contain the product derived from pigs. It is used as a stabilizer – and according to Public Health England, may never be replaced with an alternative.

The society’s Chief Executive Lynne Elliot described this inclusion of animal products in the medicine as ‘upsetting’, adding there should be ‘vegetarian and vegan versions of all medicines and vaccines’. Some vaccines also contain other animal-derived ingredients.

Vegan medicine

When it comes to medication generally, even if medicines, including vaccines, contain animal products, The Vegan Society says: “[We] DO NOT recommend you avoid medication prescribed to you by your doctor.”

However, the Society has previously called on the Government to ‘find out what animal-free alternatives to prescription products already exist, and to bring them in across the board’.

It also wants: “Guidance for medical professionals about seeking consent when using animal-based medicines, and guidance for manufacturers to improve labeling, to include ingredients of animal origin, similar to the labeling of food.”

“Vegans are careful to avoid the use and consumption of animals, or animal-derived ingredients, however, I think most would be surprised to find out that many common medicines are not vegan, and therefore the taking of them is not in line with their beliefs,” said a Vegan Society spokesperson.