Address Concerns About Religious Beliefs
Some patients may lack confidence in vaccines due to religious concerns, even though many religious groups have issued statements that clarify their beliefs and support getting vaccinated. As you interact with members of faith-focused communities who express concerns about vaccination, listen to the words they use and ask yourself whether their concerns are along religious lines or are about safety and efficacy. By learning more about specific religions, you will be better prepared to respond in a meaningful way that addresses the individual’s underlying concerns.
- Judaism expects its believers to be proactive in maintaining health. Pikuach nefesh, acting to save a life, is a positive commandment overarching even laws for keeping the Sabbath. With contagious diseases, one’s own actions help or hinder transmitting the illness to bystanders. Jewish dietary laws (“keeping kosher”) apply to foods, not medications. COVID-19 vaccines do not contain components of porcine origin, and all COVID-19 vaccines are given by injection.
- Islam espouses principles of preventing harm (izalat al dharar yuzaal) and serving the public interest (maslahat al-ummah), each of which favors vaccination. The Qur'ān forbids the consumption of several animals (e.g., “the flesh of swine”). COVID-19 vaccines do not contain components of porcine origin, and medications are given special status within Islam.
- Most Christian denominations have no scriptural or doctrinal objection to vaccination per se. Denominations that rely on faith healing (e.g., Christian Scientists, several small sects) may view vaccination as unnecessary or even suggesting unfaithfulness to God’s will. With contagious diseases, one’s own actions help or hinder transmitting the illness to bystanders. Pope Francis recorded a video for Catholics across the Americas in 2021 to encourage COVID-19 vaccination.
- Christians, Muslims, and others may express concern over vaccines manufactured using cell lines (e.g., HEK293, PER.C6) with remote links to specific fetuses aborted several decades ago (e.g., viral-vector COVID-19 vaccines from Johnson & Johnson/Janssen). Those abortions were not conducted to create these cell lines. This lack of intent breaks a complicity link that could otherwise make vaccination unacceptable. Messenger RNA in vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna and protein subunit vaccines produced by Novavax are chemically synthesized, not grown in cell culture. There are no human cells present in the vaccines. Several faith-based groups have put out statements saying the net good from COVID-19 vaccines outweighs concerns about fetal cell lines.
- Fetal cell lines are not the same as fetal tissue. None of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines contain any tissue from an aborted fetus.
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