(Statement revised and updated on Friday, 10 September, 2021)
The UK government is consulting on compulsory vaccination (Covid-19 and flu) for frontline workers in health and care settings in England. The current consultation refers to the likelihood for exemptions for medical conditions only. This proposed exemption aligns with that provided under recent legislation for compulsory vaccination in Care Quality Commission care homes in England, and it therefore seems unlikely that exemptions will be provided for vegans on the grounds of the protected characteristic ‘religion or belief’. Contrary to recent misinformation, there is no ‘vegan exemption certificate’ and vegans should be aware that only a court can decide if discrimination has taken place.
Since all medications currently go through animal testing and animal products are commonly used in their manufacture, decisions around taking medication can be complex for vegans. Many vegans find compromising their beliefs to be stressful and upsetting. You can explore this subject further in veganism and medicine and animal products in medications.
However, it has never been more important for us to talk about the definition of veganism in the context of medications, including vaccines. The definition of veganism recognises that it is not always possible or practicable for vegans to avoid participating in animal use, which is particularly relevant to medical situations. In the case of Covid-19, vaccination is playing a fundamental role in tackling the pandemic and saving lives. As there is currently a legal requirement that all vaccines are tested on animals, at this point in time it is impossible to have a vaccine that has been created without animal use.
The Vegan Society believes in and works towards a future in which the role of animals in medicine is eliminated. Our campaign Make More Medicines Vegan tackles this issue, and we also work with organisations such as Animal Free Research UK. We care deeply about these issues, but there is a long way to go in this area. Here are some of Animal Free Research UK's thoughts on the topic:
"Even if a new human relevant treatment has been developed animal free, laws and regulatory agencies worldwide currently require that new drugs and treatments are tested on animals before clinical trials on humans. This usually involves tests first on mice, rats or rabbits and then on dogs or monkeys. These tests are required by law, and unfortunately non-animal tests are currently not accepted instead.
We are working to change the regulations so that effective non-animal research methods can be used to progress drugs into human trials quickly, safely and effectively.
We are also working with MPs to ensure that animal free research gains a prominent place on the political agenda and ultimately results in concrete changes in the law."
Vegans seeking more information about the new proposals and existing legislation and can contact us at knowyourrights[at]vegansociety[dot]com or call 07482 363922.
However, 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. 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.
Our friends at the Vegetarian Society have summarised the government and manufacturer information on the Covid -19 vaccination into some key points.
- Information about the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on the NHS website
- Statement on COVID-19 vaccination of people working/deployed in care homes: the role of the Care Quality Commission
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for employers and employees
- Vaccination of people working or deployed in care homes: operational guidance