Religious leaders play key role in tackling reluctance to vaccinate clerics and believers in QAnon
(RNS) – New survey suggests religious leaders are key to tackling vaccine hesitancy or outright anti-vaccine sentiment among religious Americans and QAnon believers, many still expressing concerns about vaccination against COVID-19.
the report PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) and Interfaith Youth Core, released Thursday, April 22, divides U.S. views on COVID-19 vaccines into three groups: vaccine acceptors, vaccine rejecters, and those reluctant to get vaccinated.
Reluctance to vaccination is a growing concern for public health officials who hope to inoculate enough Americans to achieve “herd immunity” – an inflection point where the crude number of individuals vaccinated makes it difficult to spread of the coronavirus. Although the White House recently announced more than half of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, estimates of what it will take to achieve herd immunity are much higher, variant from 70% to 90% of the population.
Recent reports from Bloomberg suggests that despite the unprecedented national vaccination effort, health officials in some places may be running out of people wanting to be vaccinated, with unfilled appointments in more religious areas such as Lynchburg, in Virginie, which is home to the University of Liberty, an evangelical Christian school.
Health officials in some places may run out of people wanting to get vaccinated, with unfilled appointments in more religious areas.
Indeed, the PRRI / IFYC report warns that anti-vaccine sentiment is a factor among many religious groups, with white evangelicals being the most likely to say they will not get the vaccine (26%). Other Protestants of color come second (20%), followed by Black Protestants (19%), members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (17%), Hispanic Protestants (15%) and white Protestants (13%). ). At the bottom of the list are unaffiliated religious Americans (12%), Hispanic Catholics (10%), non-Christians (10%), White Catholics (8%) and Jews (5%).
The distribution of religious people who are reluctant to get vaccinated – meaning they want to either wait and see how the COVID-19 vaccines work or only get vaccinated when needed – is slightly different from those who anti-vaccines: Hispanic Protestants (42%) are at the top, followed by other Protestants of color (35%), Hispanic Catholics (34%), members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (33%), black Protestants (32%), people not affiliated with religion (28%) and white evangelicals (28%).
Most groups still report a majority of vaccine acceptors, with the exception of Hispanic Protestants (43%), White Evangelicals (45%), Other Protestants of Color (45%), Black Protestants (49%) ) and members of the Church of Jesus. Christ of Latter-day Saints (50%).
But rates of vaccine refusals and hesitant people in many religious groups remain higher than among the general public, where only 14% are vaccine refusals and 28% are reluctant to be vaccinated.
Researchers from PRRI and IFYC say there is hope for public health officials looking to push people toward vaccine acceptance – including through campaigns and faith-based messaging.
There is hope for public health officials who seek to get people to accept vaccines through campaigns and religious messages.
There is already a faith-based drive among black Protestants, where nearly 6 in 10 (57%) who attend services at least a few times a year accept vaccines, compared to 41% among those who do not attend services.
However, the reverse is true for white evangelicals, where those who attend church services frequently are less likely to accept vaccines (43%) than those who attend less frequently (48%).
Here, researchers see an opportunity: When asked if one or more faith-based approaches would make them more likely to be vaccinated against COVID-19, 38% of white evangelicals who are reluctant to be vaccinated say yes, as well as 4% of refusals to be vaccinated. in this group. The numbers climb even more – to 47% and 7%, respectively – among white evangelicals who regularly attend church services.
A significant number of black Protestants reluctant to vaccination (36%), Hispanic Catholics (33%) and white Protestants (18%) also say they would be more likely to be vaccinated against COVID-19 if they were targeted by a religion. based approach.
Investigators asked about six potential faith-based approaches in their investigation, such as a religious leader encouraging them to get the vaccine, holding a forum to discuss vaccine safety in a religious location, or obtaining the vaccine in a religious setting. a neighboring religious congregation.
During an online event Thursday to launch the survey, PRRI research director Natalie Jackson noted variations among religious groups as to which faith-based approach appears most likely to fight reluctance to vaccinate.
White House signaled challenges in appealing to white conservatives
“For white evangelicals, the three most influential approaches were a religious leader getting vaccinated, a religious leader encouraging people to get vaccinated, and a congregation-hosted forum on vaccine safety. … They would displace (over) 20% of white evangelicals in each case, ”she said in response to a question from Religion News Service.
“Among black Protestants, by far the most influential approach would be the Vaccine Safety Forum.”
Robert P. Jones, director of PRRI, added that while some strategies might work better than others, the combined effect of multiple efforts could make an even bigger difference.
“Even within a homogeneous group like white evangelical Protestants, each of these things takes on slightly different slices,” he said. “The cumulative effect is greater than any of these six effects.”
All faith-based approaches are based on existing real-world efforts to get people immunized, many of which have been forged through partnerships between faith-based organizations and government officials. Prominent members of the clergy – from bishops and imams to rabbis and activists – have been vaccinated in public across the country, for example when a group of religious leaders were vaccinated at the Washington National Cathedral in March at an event featuring National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins and infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci.
A significant portion of those who refuse to be vaccinated – 38% – say they “generally agree” with QAnon’s conspiracy theories.
Religious leaders also wrote editorials expressing their support for vaccines, offered their shrines as venues for vaccination or participated in vaccine trials. And government officials have sought out church groups to help overcome vaccine access issues: Health experts in Washington, DC, have in partnership with black churches to organize mass immunization days, and President Joe Biden visited a seminar in April who works with a nonprofit organization focused on health equity.
At the launch event, IFYC founder and president Eboo Patel called for an expansion of church-based vaccination sites and additional data to track religious views on vaccines. He has also promoted the idea of faith-based community health ambassadors, which his group is working to recruit across the country.
Yet challenges remain. The White House has signaled challenges in appealing to white conservatives – including evangelicals. In April, White House press secretary Jen Psaki admitted reporters that members of the Biden administration “won’t always be the best messengers.”
The problem is compounded by the preponderance of baseless conspiracy theories, such as those circulated by the QAnon Group. According to PRRI / IFYC, a significant portion of vaccine rejecters – 38% – say they “generally agree” with QAnon’s conspiracy theories such as the flawed claim that the government is controlled by a group of people. Satan-worshiping pedophiles. Additionally, 17% of vaccine-hesitant respondents say they generally agree with QAnon’s theories.
And there’s a religious overlap: 20% of white evangelical Protestants say they generally agree with QAnon conspiracy theories, as do 18% of Hispanic Protestants, 17% of Mormons, 16% of black Protestants, and 16% of Hispanic Protestants. % of Hispanic Catholics.
Yet those who agree with QAnon’s conspiracy theories are also those most likely to overcome vaccine reluctance using faith-based approaches: among those who generally agree with the QAnon’s conspiracy theories and who are reluctant to get vaccinated, more than a third (36%) say one or more faith-based approaches would make them at least slightly more likely to get the shot.
After that, it is the vaccine deniers who remain the hardest to sell: The investigation found that the effectiveness of faith-based approaches does not vary significantly depending on QAnon’s conspiracy beliefs.