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Religious Concerns

Dialogue between patients and healthcare professionals can be a good way to answer questions and clear up misconceptions for vaccine-hesitant patients. In this dialogue, it can be helpful to understand the underlying reason why a patient might be reluctant to get a vaccine. We call this underlying reason the ‘attitude root’. Attitude roots refer to deep psychological factors, such as a person’s level of trust or distrust, that shape and constrain people’s beliefs and attitudes.

This tool explains some of the most common attitude roots and how they may show up as arguments expressed by a vaccine-hesitant patient. It also identifies some of the most common themes related to each attitude root, so that we can address them.

Understanding the attitude roots of hesitancy also helps us guide our empathy with a patient. Empathy is an important component of communication, and one way in which we can show empathy is by affirming the reasons for a patient’s concerns. For example, we can acknowledge that there have been cases in which governments have shown themselves to be untrustworthy. This tool gives some examples of affirmations for each attitude root. We can use those examples to understand and empathise with how the patient is feeling about vaccination.

Finally, the tool provides refutations for common arguments and misconceptions that a patient may have. These refutations take into account the likely attitude root and try to correct misconceptions while still affirming the patient’s psychological predispositions.

No major faith explicitly opposes vaccinations. On the contrary, all major faiths in the U.K. have urged their followers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Nonetheless, several concerns about vaccinations have been identified that arise from religious considerations. These concerns can be divided into four groups.

  • Violations of dietary norms, such as blood components and pharmaceutical excipients of porcine or bovine origin.
  • Violations of religious codes of purity, such as cell lines with foetal origins or HPV vaccinations protecting against a sexually transmitted disease.
  • Defence of the natural order by letting events take their course, which is often reflected in rejection of interference with divine providence.
  • Religious alternatives to vaccination, such as faith or prayer to fight diseases.

Although religiosity is not consistently associated with higher vaccine hesitancy when conducting international comparisons, there is tentative evidence that vaccine hesitancy is greater among the religious in an American sample. Vaccination rates are also particularly low among some fundamentalist religious communities around the world.

The work of God

Vaccinations defile or adulterate the human body, which was created in God’s image


Religious exemptions

Not allowing religious exemptions to vaccines is perceived as discriminatory


Religious authority

Religious passages or leaders prohibiting vaccination



Vaccines contain materials that are prohibited (e.g., porcine products and fetal cells)


Appeal to natural order

Vaccines interfere with the natural order of things or are against God's will