Religion and Vaccines

Are vaccines against my religion?

It may seem like a strange question, but it is one that legislators and parents are often left to grapple with. There are viral memes, posts, or articles claiming that certain ingredients in vaccines may violate certain religious traditions. Parents often hear misinformation that makes them feel confused about how to honor their religious faith and legislators who support the freedom of religion can feel conflicted between protecting public health and allowing a diversity of religious beliefs. Everyone needs clarity in this situation!

Since we created this page the new COVID-19 vaccines has become available. In this update, we have gathered some links added below about how different religious organizations have directed their adherents with regard to this specific vaccine. We try whenever possible to rely on the websites run by religious organizations themselves, but we link to news coverage when that isn’t possible.

What are the real facts, and what do parents or lawmakers need to know?

Real Fact 1

There are no major world religions that forbid vaccination. The vast majority of religious faiths want their followers to live healthy lives and know that vaccines are a boon to healthy children and thriving communities. While there are a few religions that have ideas about medicine that are outside of the mainstream, most allow for their adherents to make individual decisions about medical care and vaccination.

Real Fact 2

Whether they are found online or holding signs in front of a government building, claims by antivaccine activists are not likely rooted in religion. While these activists do have deeply held fears related to vaccines, those fears have their roots in the belief that vaccines are harmful to health. Religious and political ideas (such as “freedom of choice”) are often used to argue that they and their children should not have to get vaccinated, but the reason they don’t want to vaccinate is because misinformation has convinced them that vaccines are harmful.

Real Fact 3

Vaccine exemptions—be they religious or philosophical—put our most vulnerable community members at risk. Many members in our community are very young, very old, or very sick. Healthy school children stop the chain of transmission from getting to the vulnerable. We need to make sure that we close loopholes of convenience. If exemptions are allowed, they should not be easier to obtain than the vaccines themselves. An educational component would stop busy parents from simply filing exemptions if they forget to get vaccines completed on time.

Real Fact 4

While there are a few vaccines with components grown in human cells, vaccines themselves do not contain fetal cell materials. These rumors began because there are two cell lines that began from fetal material in the 1960s. However, these cell lines are completely stable and lab grown. No new fetal tissue is needed for the continued stability of these cells, and the cells themselves are not present in any vaccination.

View information below for statements certain religious organizations have made regarding vaccines and vaccination!

The Seventh Day Adventists state they “encourage responsible immunization/vaccination, and have no religious or faith-based reason not to encourage [their] adherents” to get vaccinated.

The Seventh Day Adventist Church has reaffirmed that it does not have religious-based objections to vaccines. You can read about their thoughts on COVID vaccines here.

Hindus have raised no objections to vaccines in India and have high rates of immunizations. India has the Universal Immunisation Programme which is a vaccine-delivery platform for children and pregnant women, funded by the central government and implemented by State governments.

A Hindu perspective on COVID-19 vaccination.

Most major Christian churches have actively pushed against being used as justification for religious exemptions in the United States and have actively discussed the benefits of vaccination.

Christian perspective on COVID-19.

While Catholic leadership may wish that there were not any cell lines used in the production of vaccines, they recognize that there is not an alternative at this time and the vaccine should be given to prevent further loss of life or risk to a child. Catholic schools have also begun rejecting admission to nonvaccinated students.

Local Catholic Diocese and Broader Catholic information on COVID-19.

There is nothing in the teachings of the Buddha that mentions vaccines or vaccination. Buddhists belonging to many branches of Buddhism vaccinate themselves and their children. The Dali Lama himself launched a polio vaccine drive in 2010 and has urged others to get the COVID-19 vaccine after getting his shot!

Christian Science denomination has “counseled respect for public health” and does not impose any decisions by the church. Christian Science states that its “church members are free to make their own choices on all life-decisions…including whether or not to vaccinate their children.”

The Islamic Organization for Medical Sciences held a conference to discuss whether or not certain medical treatments should be considered acceptable under Islamic law. They have determined that when something unclean is used to make a medicine that thing is “fundamentally transformed” and not unclean to use.

Vaccination for COVID-19 was also concluded permissible under Sharia Law. Islamic Imams encouraging COVID-19 vaccines in their communities.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said way back in 1978 that members of the church should vaccinate their children, and still make it a priority today! 

Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints where vaccinated for COVID-19 at the first opportunity and the Church has used humanitarian funds to help worldwide vaccination efforts. In California, the church stated it will not help members avoid vaccine mandates.

Jews may have many different interpretations of their religion and varying levels of orthodoxy. However, a variety of Jewish religious leaders have urged fellow Jews to vaccinate their children. Many Jewish people have also helped in the development and the distribution of vaccines. Read this from Rabbi Hershy Z. Ten.

Orthodox Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld participated in the Moderna Trial and shares his experience.

Japanese religion has “acknowledged modern biomedicine” since 1868 and has accepted vaccination.

Jainism does not have any books exploring its philosophy in relation to western medical bioethics, there were many key religious members in “early governmental policy committees that issued federal reports and guidelines”.

Sikhism texts and doctrine contain no teachings in opposition to immunization. Sikh children are 14% more likely to be vaccinated than other religious groups in India.

The Episcopal Church reaffirmed last year that it is very provaccine and asked no one to use the church as the basis of a religious exemption.

Evangelicals have different perspectives on vaccination, but many discuss seeking “common good”  from a Christian perspective in immunization to prevent harm to children by not getting vaccinated.

This link has more great information on vaccines from a religious standpoint.

This link discusses how religious organizations can play an important role in improving the health of their communities!

Remember if you have questions about your religion and vaccines, talk to your religious leaders directly.

Don’t get your information from people who make money scaring others out of getting vaccinations!

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