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!
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.
Please check the links below for statements certain religious organizations have made regarding vaccines and vaccination!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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!
Stay home if you are sick
Avoid close contact with
sick people and wear a mask
Cover your nose and mouth
when you sneeze
Wash your hands often
Clean and disinfect
Stay up to date on your vaccinations