Flu Vaccines

I have just discovered that the yearly flu vaccine contains a pork product used to stabilize the vaccine. I am Messianic and follow Torah. Is there any other alternative flu vaccine?

Paul S.

Dear Paul,

Thanks for writing. Regardless of background, everybody is impacted by what they eat. There is an entire industry based on what is called “organic food” in spite of the fact that numerous scientific analyses have concluded that no chemical distinctions can be found between regular (less expensive) produce and the “organic” variety. The very fact that those who believe implicitly in the superiority of “organic” foods may well be deriving some holistic benefit from eating in that fashion is perfectly feasible. (Please see our free eBook, The Holistic You.)

The same goes for those who exert considerable effort to eat only “locally sourced” food. Despite no evidence that more carbon is produced in the aggregate by bulk shipping of food, I’d be hard pressed to insist that choosing to eat under those restrictions has no impact on the consumer, if not on his body, then on this soul.

That this is just as true for those who confine their food intake to the Bible’s rules of kosher eating can hardly be argued. The most important point to bear in mind is that much of kosher regulation in Scripture is somewhat encoded. For instance, many rules such as that prohibiting the consumption of cheese-burgers are decoded from the three time repetition of a verse discussing cooking. (Exodus 23:19, & 34:26 and Deuteronomy 14:21) Clearly, the literal translation of the words does not provide any valuable data; only the decoding of the full Hebrew meaning helps.

You are quite correct; gelatin, mostly derived from pig skin, is used in some, but not all flu vaccines and also in the capsule container of many drugs, even some aspirins. This is an area of kashrut (keeping kosher) whose modern implications have been carefully researched and discussed in detail for over a hundred years. We are going to spare you the complexity and granularity, but for several reasons including the degree of chemical conversion that the gelatin undergoes, there are legitimate halachic opinions to allow consumption of medications containing gelatin. There are even arguments to allow foods like yogurt, marshmallows, and so on that contain gelatin. However, one of the basic tenets of a Torah-observant lifestyle is accepting the authority of a worthy rabbi. Most American rabbis in this category do not allow eating foods made with animal-derived gelatin, but there are some who do. One can’t pick and choose depending on the desired answer, but our point is that these are complex questions and there is room for respectful disagreement. You see, Paul, it is not only a question of chemical analysis but also one of religious coherence and so the Torah-observant in one part of the world might well be bound by slightly different rules from those in another location.

You ask us whether there is an alternative flu vaccine. We have no idea. This question is entirely outside our zone of expertise. We suggest you ask your doctor. However, to the best of our knowledge, we have not heard anyone raise kashrut-based objections to getting the flu vaccine.

In addition to what we have already explained, an injection is different from chewing or even swallowing a medication. Should, for example, someone need a gelatin-based capsule medicine and no alternative is available (for those who do not use gelatin) swallowing it rather than allowing it to dissolve in one’s mouth removes the taste factor, greatly reducing the severity of the matter.

We hope this brief overview is helpful.

Eat healthily for both body and soul,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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14 thoughts on “Flu Vaccines”

  1. I appreciate this information so much! I am a Christian but in the culture I was raised, pork is considered a nasty animal not suitable for our bodies. I learned a good while ago about Jello-O Gelatin having pork substance and I gave that up (delicious with ice cream) I learned about pork substance in Pound Cake, I gave that up. Some frozen entrees have pork I pay more attention to the ingredients. I have never taken the Flu Vaccine, I do not think I need to. I eat green veggies everyday I feel like a rabbit. I eat fruits and juice them I feel like a bee. LOL! I do not know if the Covid 19 vaccine has any pork substance. As I am a teacher I hope not. Like the comments state if it is to preserve your life and not eaten is really a big difference.

  2. I don’t eat meat and avoid gelatin also.
    Today, gelatin seems like nothing to me compared to the experimental genetic technology injections being forced on us, in order to make the most wealthy and powerful few in the world, achieve complete control of all wealth and power.
    Our generation’s megalomaniacs are as terrifying as any.

    Praying people stop “just following orders” before its too late.

  3. It,s not just pig skin, it is dog kidney cells, aborted fetal cells from Johnson & Johnson. Our faith is being challenged at all levels of our life. We must stand strong in our faith. Satan goes about like a roaring lion.


  4. Victor Bonnici

    I never had a flu shot. I am 62 years old and have never had the flu. I take care of myself. I walk between 3 & 5 km each day and go up and down hills during my walks. I also do strength training about 3 times per week. I also take vitamins and supplements even though I eat well. I also practice intermittent fasting daily and breath holds and attempt to only breath through the nose (see The Oxygen Advantage).

  5. Dear Rabbi Lapin,

    I am a Christian but have joined a Chabad group where we study Journey of the Soul. A few weeks ago we were studying the topic about death and dying. The question that stood out for me, and no one in our break out group was able to answer, is why no one would mention the name of a loved one (in this case the deceased person). The other question I have, is the matter of reincarnation. Reincarnation is actually not talked about at all in Christianity, not because it is never thought of but it goes unmentioned. I will ask the same question of a Rabbi in Seattle I know, his name is Daniel Lapin, not because I want to compare the answers but only because I am genuinly interested to gain a better spiritual understanding. I very much enjoyed your birthday party at the end of the session and chimed in with the lechaims and mazzeltovs at the end. I feel very privilaged in a sense to be part of the Jewish community, at least in a spiritually.
    Kind regards,

    1. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

      In the words “it is appointed for men once to die…”it brings home the fact that you don’t get a second chance at life and death. It’s a one-off.

      1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

        Dear Grace–
        Thanks so much for writing. Just by way of information, our policies don’t allow us to publish websites and URL’s in letters nor do they allow extensive Biblical quotations. I am sorry.
        With warmest wishes,

  6. Dear Paul,
    I believe I can answer the question is there alternative flu vaccines, there are. My father has to take them because he is allergic to the conventional vaccines. Of course these are harder to get and take some time for your doctor to order. Obviously to make the flu shot not provoke a reaction some of the ingredients are removed, resulting in a purer form of the vaccine. As to if the ingredients they use in there are kosher or not, I do not know but your doctor should be able to tell you, and then you can tell your Rabbi.

  7. I just had to respond. I had the same issue when I had a tooth im-plant many years ago. The dentist wanted to put ground up and sterilized cadaver dust in the post hole for giving it much faster bone healing. I asked him if there was an alternative and he said yes, having loose teeth. I took his advise even tho I’m against eating dead people. I choose the long term advantage vs the questionable moral issues. Now that being said: I have not had the flue sense I was a young man and I’m 72 now. I have not had any vaccinations sense I was in the service way in the mid 70’s. I got a mild case of shingles a couple years ago. For me and my household we just watch the best we can what we eat (spiritually and physically). That’s what I do but everyone has to do what is best for their way of life.

  8. There are alternatives to COVID vaccines that work as well or better. I have collected a number of these in my blog. [Thank you for offering a summation in addition to the link as our policy is not to post links] In case you are reluctant to open unknown links here is a quick summary of one of the many resources referenced.

    Vitamin C liposomal (this is the most highly absorbable form): 1000 mg a day preventatively or 3000 mg daily if exposed or infected. (Bob’s note: Sodium Ascorbate works well and will not upset you GI system.)
    Vitamin A: 25,000iu a day is a common dosage
    Vitamin D: 5,000iu a day preventatively or 10,000iu if infected.
    Zinc: 15-30 mg daily preventatively or 60 mg a day if infected.
    NAC (N-acetyl cysteine): 600 mg daily preventatively or 600 mg 3 times a day if infected.
    Glutathione: liposomal 200 mg daily preventatively or 200 mg 2 to 3 times a day if infected.

    The strategy is to build up your immune system so your body can fight off infection. It improves your resistance to virtually everything. The sources referenced are all from very reputable institutions.
    Thank you for all of your very informative articles.
    Bob Wood

    1. Also this brings in an important issue in my heart. This affirms G*d’s provision in our body. Many put their trust in man made vaccines. Though many times medicine is a life saver, I add this issue as also important. Strengthen what G*d has provided!

  9. Mark Sharfstein

    Yes Rabbi….Thank you for sharing this letter

    Your last paragraph parallels an opinion offered by an Orthodox friend..Lazer Lloyd ..from Bet Shemesh Alef…..who certainly adheres to Kosher dietary standards and restrictions….

    I asked him if..(being devout) he would take “Heparin” a clot busting medicine that is (at least partially) derived from “porcine Intestinal mucousa” ……It was administered to me years ago when I suffered a serious Heart attack… I recall my surprise reading the ingredients on the label on that IV bottle..

    “Lloyd”..I explained…this stuff may have saved my life ..”what if it was you ..would you let your Doctor administer it knowing it had pig slime” ? He explained that “G*d knows the difference between consuming medicine to save a life and eating a meal…and “yes”…he would take it “…..

    thanks for letting me share this….Shalom Rabbi

  10. I think the term Organic is very valid, unfortunately big business has sabotaged it. Originally it just meant grown naturally and free from chemical fertilisers. It is the fertilisers (eg roundup) that are causing many health problems today which affect our bodies, the temple of God.

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