The flu vaccination of children in Kirklees has been declared “unlawful” for discriminating against Muslims, a patient’s charity has claimed.
Thousands of children missed out on protection from flu this winter because the nasal spray vaccine is not halal.
This year’s only vaccine – Fluenz – contains pork gelatine.
Muslim law prevents the consumption of pig based products unless it is a life or death scenario.
Prior to its launch in October, Kirklees health officials consulted with Islamic scholars at Huddersfield and Dewsbury hospitals who discussed the matter “at length” and concluded that they must reject Fluenz.
Kirklees Council’s public health department and patients’ charity Healthwatch Kirklees raised the concerns with Public Health England but they refused to offer an injectable alternative.
Now Healthwatch Kirklees says it has taken legal advice which has concluded the policy is “unlawful”.
It follows a similar ruling in Scotland which saw the ‘Fluenz only’ option declared illegal by the courts.
Healthwatch Kirklees director, Rory Deighton, said it was too late to affect this year’s flu programme but he hoped Public Health England would note the legal opinion for next winter’s scheme.
“This year they said it was Fluenz or nothing,” he said. “So we were really going to struggle with uptake in the Muslim community in which we already have ongoing health inequality issues.
“Fluenz is twice as effective as an injection; but if your imam is saying it’s not acceptable and your belief system states you can’t take it, then surely they should offer an alternative.”
Mr Deighton said he recognised the Fluenz vaccine had worked well but that had to be balanced against equality laws.
He added: “The NHS wanted to see what happened if just Fluenz was used. It is much more effective than the injection and the theory is if you vaccinate children it boosts protection for vulnerable adults.
“It’s the second year they’ve done it and they good really good results across the country.
“But we’ve said they need to make adjustments for Muslim communities.”
Mount Pleasant Health Centre in Batley told the Examiner last October that Muslim parents had been very upset when they found out there was no halal alternative on offer.
The Fluenz vaccine has caused controversy in other parts of the country after health officials failed to reveal it contained pig based products.
In East Lancashire one mother was reported to have said giving her daughter the spray was like asking her to eat dog.