Study: Religious leaders may be key to convincing vaccine skeptics to get the vaccine
The United States has benefited from a surprisingly effective vaccine deployment over the past two months (hiccups notwithstanding) and had 50% of its eligible adults well ahead of expectations. But there are signs that the United States is reaching a ceiling in terms of people wanting to be vaccinated, with a huge surplus of doses available and a dwindling supply of people who want them. There are a number of reasons for this, and one of them is vaccine reluctance and skepticism – people who are wary of the science about vaccinations and prefer to take their chances on vaccines. COVID-19. Now, a new study indicates that one of the big keys to convincing these skeptics to change their minds is that of religious leaders.
PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) and Interfaith Youth Core conducted a study in which Americans were divided into three groups: vaccine acceptors, vaccine rejectors, and vaccine hesitant. They found that anti-vaccine sentiment is especially strong among religious groups, particularly white evangelicals – 26% of whom do not plan to be vaccinated. Hispanic Protestants and Protestants of color are more likely to be reluctant to vaccinate – not totally opposed to getting the vaccine, but more likely to wait and see how the deployment unfolds.
Significant percentages of these groups said that a faith-based approach to changing their mind – such as encouragement from a religious leader – would be effective. 38 percent of white evangelicals “hesitant about vaccination” with 36 percent of black Protestants hesitant about vaccination and 33 percent of Hispanic Catholics say a faith-based approach would increase their acceptance.
That’s a big deal, as experts estimate that the United States needs to get vaccinated between 70 and 90 percent to gain herd immunity, a percentage that will be difficult to achieve if the slowdown continues. In addition to encouraging their congregations to get vaccinated, the study suggested approaches such as organizing vaccine forums with local medical experts in nearby religious institutions or even setting up vaccination sites in the churches.
“Even within a cohesive group like white evangelical Protestants, each of these things takes on slightly different slices,” said PRRI director Robert P. Jones. “The cumulative effect is greater than any of these six effects.”