Lentis/Religious Opposition to Vaccination


Religion has influenced vaccination since its creation. Social issues have caused religious opposition to vaccinations but very few religions altogether oppose vaccination. Most advocate vaccination and only deviate when something contradicts their values. Political tension can affect religious practices and caused the middle eastern polio outbreak in the early 2000s. Pharmaceutical companies influence public perception and have created religious opposition by developing new vaccines. Both social and religious ideas are important because they are often intertwined or indistinguishable.

History of vaccinationEdit

The first inoculations thought to occur were in ancient China around 1000 CE[1] to prevent smallpox. Smallpox scabs were crushed into a powder and blown up the patient's nose. Variolation was risky and was the only option until the late 1700s. Edward Jenner, known as the "Father of Immunology", is most famous for inventing the first smallpox vaccine. In 1796, Jenner found a dairymaid infected with cowpox and collected pus from her lesions. He used it to inoculate an 8-year-old boy that he exposed to smallpox two months after. The boy developed no fever, rash, or any signs of smallpox.[2] People were scared to try Jenner's vaccine, but support from local ministers and government helped change public perception to make vaccination common practice.

Rowland Hill, an English preacher and friend of Jenner, was an early advocate of vaccination and is best known for vaccinating his congregations. He "eagerly embraced this new means of conferring a benefit on his fellow creatures"[3] and helped change the public perception of vaccinations. Rowland was praised by many and his efforts with Jenner were the first steps in global eradication of smallpox.

Catholic ChurchEdit

The Catholic Church has generally supported vaccination and believes that immunization is an important and morally responsible action. Jenner's vaccine was accepted by the Church and many congregations vaccinated together. Vaccination support continued for years until pharmaceutical companies began using cells from aborted fetuses to develop new vaccines.

Stem Cell Based VaccinesEdit

The embryonic origins of certain vaccines for rubella and chickenpox pose an issue for the Catholic Church. The Church believes abortion is a great evil against innocent lives[4]; therefore, vaccinations can not be justified to be in public use.Thomas Aquinas's Doctrine of Double Effect states that a bad action is justifiable if a beneficial result occurs that significantly outweighs the bad. The Church used this religious doctrine to morally absolve those who vaccinate. Until new technology is developed, the Church believes you are morally free to use these vaccines because their tremendous help to public health outweighs concerns about their embryonic origin.[5]

Ultra Orthodox JewsEdit

In 2013, a measles outbreak in a private Jewish school in Brooklyn gained national attention as it was the largest since 1996. Investigators deduced the outbreak was due to some conservative orthodox Jewish families not inoculating their children at a young age. Their reasons mainly resided in skepticism towards the viability of the vaccinations. As a substitute to inoculation, these families have been observed to use chiropractic practices and vitamins to stay healthy. Some experts argue that the skepticism stems not only from the notorious link of autism to vaccinations but also a deep seeded fear of the state and centuries' worth of marginalization to Jews [6]. Jewish funded anti-vaccination propaganda varies from magazines such as P.E.A.C.H to small local organizations passing flyers and holding panels to educate their neighborhoods of the dangers of inoculation[7].

Jehovah's WitnessEdit

The Jehovah's Witness is unique in that it openly opposed vaccination in its infancy then changed their position years later. Jehovah's Witnesses were against vaccination from 1921 to 1952 and published several pages of anti-vaccination propaganda in their sponsored magazine "Golden Age." This propaganda included several cartoons, one of which uses a scare tactic by depicting vaccines as a pollutant to the blood.[8] As the social perception of vaccines changed it became common practice and Jehovah's witness changed their position. They openly changed their position in 1950 using the Watchtower, another Jehovah's Witnesses sponsored magazine. A statement was published declaring that "the matter of vaccination is one for the individual... to decide for himself."[9]


Muslims have had a laudable record with inoculation ever since its introduction to their communities. There has been, however, a fear that pig blood or pig derivatives are being used in the manufacturing of these vaccinations causing some community leaders to push for "halal" vaccinations.[10]

In militant Muslim communities, political tensions can dictate public behavior and opinion towards social and medical norms. In the case of inoculation, rising tensions between the Middle East and the U.S. signaled by the 2003 invasion of Iraq led to an increase in skepticism of vaccinations. Imams in Northern Nigeria along with the Taliban in Pakistan claimed that vaccinations are a way for the west to sterilize Muslims and eradicate their resistance. These leaders went as far as kidnapping, torturing, and murdering vaccination officials that stood in their way[11][12]. Soon Afghanistan, Pakistan, Northern Nigeria, and other Muslim-dominated communities saw a spike in polio and MMR cases. In 2011, the CIA fabricated a vaccination campaign in Pakistan to reach Osama bin Laden.[13] The campaign was uncovered and these fears were further solidified.

Starting in 2015, the Nigerian government along world health organizations, UNICEF and WHO, launched a polio campaign that aims to use local village leaders to teach their constituents of the importance of vaccinations. They also erected clinics where inoculations can be administered[14][15].

Christian ScienceEdit

Christian Science was founded by Mary Baker Eddy after she recovered from a life-threatening accident in 1866. She believed that her miraculous recovery came from her God and her constant prayer. From this discovery, she founded Christian Science on the core principles of the other Protestant Christian denominations.[16] The key difference from Protestant Christianity is the Christian Science belief that all of life's problems can be healed through prayer. Christian Scientists take this literally and believe prayer is the only way to heal the world and all of its creatures. This belief of healing through prayer is called Christian healing and "has helped people around the world to experience restoration to health and resolution of the full spectrum of human suffering".[17] With this belief system, it can be stated that Christian Science is opposed to all vaccinations.

The Congregation of Universal WisdomEdit

Congregation of Universal wisdom is a religion based on belief in chiropractic spinal adjustments and Universal Intelligence that forbids inoculation. It is the belief of the members of the Congregation that the upheaval of morals and inferiority of human values have been the results of a departure of mankind from the ideals expressed by Universal Wisdom[18]. On their official website, they argue that “It is sacrilege to introduce into the body living organisms or any unnatural matter that may alter the natural balance of that organism rendering it into a state of dis-ease”[19].The beliefs upheld by these anti-inoculation groups are so controversial, it took a district court case in New York,Turner v. Liverpool Cent. School, to affirm the permissibility of claiming religious exemption from vaccination on the basis of religious membership. Soon many states allowed exemptions of inoculation based on religious grounds as a protection of the first amendment[20]. This, however, has led some parents to claim membership to these religions to avoid vaccinations[21].

Big PharmaEdit

These are the major pharmaceutical companies that create the drugs and vaccines used today. They are the biggest supporters of vaccinations because vaccines are a major source of profit for pharmaceutical companies. Statistics show that the global revenue from vaccines in 2014 and 2015 was 32.2 and 35.8 billion dollars respectively.[22] The global market for vaccines is projected to grow continually. Julie Gerberding, M.D, M.P.H, Executive Vice President and Chief Patient Officer for Merck, said "vaccines are a powerful force of health and health development, and their globalization is not just a business necessity but a public health obligation."[23] This statement shows that their drive to increase the global vaccination rate is both a business decision and one that they believe will deliver a healthier world. Because they are targeting such a broad audience with their global scale there have been instances where pharmaceutical companies have offended religious groups in their advertising. The most prominent example of this is when GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) released Ceravix, an HPV vaccine, which they later removed from the market.


When GSK released Cervarix, an HPV vaccine, certain Christian groups felt as though it promoted promiscuous sexual activity. Many believed inoculating their children would encourage them to engage in sexual activity, thereby breaking the seventh commandment.[24]. They reasoned that abstinence alone was the best way to protect against HPV and consequential cervical cancer. The church has supported the HPV vaccination and declared that nothing is immoral about Cervarix. GSK, however, failed by advertising it as an anti-STD instead of an anti-cancer vaccination. This caused a very low market demand for Cervarix and GSK was forced to remove it from the market. When Merck Pharmaceuticals released a similar vaccine, Gardasil, they did not make the same mistake. The Catholic Church responded to its release by advocating vaccination[25] explaining that it prevents 70% of cancer caused by HPV.

Organizations Supporting VaccinesEdit

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Edit

The CDC is a governmental agency of the United States and works to promote health in the U.S. and internationally.[26] This organization works to promote the immunization of all age groups and ethnicities. The immunization regulations in the U.S. are regulated by states.[27] Therefore, the CDC promotes vaccinations but allows for those exceptions of religious exemptions to vaccinations.[28]

World Health Organization (WHO)Edit

The World Health Organization has a specified division of Immunizations, Vaccines and Biologicals. This division is responsible for enabling their Global Vaccine Action Plan.[29] Their plan details the data they have collected from around the world while giving immunizations to those in impoverished countries.[30]

United Nation's International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF)Edit

UNICEF has launched many campaigns to promote immunizations in children. Much like the WHO, UNICEF collects data on their campaigns to immunize children.[31] Recently that data showed that one country that had a high density of immunized children was India.[32] This caused the launch of ac cyber campaign with multiple ads circulating through India promoting child immunization.[33]


  1. https://www.historyofvaccines.org/timeline
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1200696/
  3. The Life of Edward Jenner M.D. https://books.google.com/books?id=BDneAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA99&lpg=PA99&dq=rowland+Hill+and+edward+jenner&source=bl&ots=HDDz09c1h2&sig=UglJfZb0IvkTPeTzxqa1E8W--RI&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjRj9bvpYDYAhUKUd8KHdm6C5gQ6AEIRjAL#v=onepage&q&f=false
  4. https://www.ncbcenter.org/resources/frequently-asked-questions/use-vaccines/#assocAbort
  5. https://www.ncbcenter.org/resources/frequently-asked-questions/use-vaccines/#assocAbort
  6. https://forward.com/news/205801/are-ultra-orthodox-turning-away-from-vaccination/
  7. https://respectfulinsolence.com/2016/07/14/the-annals-of-im-not-antivaccine-part-20-there-is-no-safe-vaccine-and-excusing-the-murder-of-autistic-children/
  8. https://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/medical.php#vaccinations
  9. https://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/medical.php#vaccinations
  10. Halal vaccines "to be ready in three years"
  11. Why the Taliban hates polio vaccines
  12. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/29781528/ns/health-infectious_diseases/t/muslim-clerics-finally-embrace-polio-campaign/#.Wi3nYVWnGpp
  13. CIA organised fake vaccination drive to get Osama bin Laden's family DNA
  14. http://polioeradication.org/news-post/leading-the-way-to-a-polio-free-nigeria/
  15. Muslim clerics finally embrace polio campaign
  16. https://www.christianscience.com/what-is-christian-science/mary-baker-eddy
  17. https://www.christianscience.com/christian-healing-today
  18. http://www.cuwisdom.org/index.php
  19. (http://www.cuwisdom.org/healing.php
  20. http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/school-immunization-exemption-state-laws.aspx
  21. https://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-10-17-19819928_x.htm
  22. https://www.statista.com/statistics/265102/revenues-in-the-global-vaccine-market/
  23. http://www.merck.com/about/our-work/vaccine.html
  24. http://www.ewtn.com/v/experts/showmessage.asp?number=473594&Pg=&Pgnu=&recnu=
  25. http://www.catholicherald.com/News/Local_News/Statement_on_HPV_vaccine/
  26. https://www.cdc.gov/about/default.htm
  27. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/imz-managers/laws/index.html
  28. https://www.cdc.gov/phlp/publications/topic/vaccinationlaws.html
  29. http://www.who.int/immunization/en/
  30. http://www.who.int/immunization/global_vaccine_action_plan/en/
  31. https://www.unicef.org/immunization/
  32. https://www.unicef.org/immunization/files/unicef-who-immunization-coverage-2015.pdf
  33. http://www.unicef.in/babiesneedyou/