By Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, who is a fellow with the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress. The views expressed here are his own. Read more opinion on CNN.
(CNN) Bringing the Covid-19 pandemic to an end will require the active participation of religious Americans, who should view vaccines as an answered prayer rather than a threat to their faith.
2020 was a humbling year. Nobody’s life was left untouched by a virus that took the lives of more than 344,000 Americans and 1.8 million people around the world. We mourned in isolation and grieved a failed national response to contain the ravages of the pandemic. If you weren’t the praying type already, chances are you prayed some in 2020.
While the distribution is unfortunately staggeringly behind schedule in the US, the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines bring us hope going into 2021. Other promising vaccines are on the horizon. In less than a month, the White House will be occupied by someone who takes the pandemic seriously. There are reasons to hope, but also more challenges ahead.
It’s unsurprising that some religious communities have cast doubt on the vaccine. A 2019 study found that religion and vaccine refusal are linked. A study in Australia this year found that people with “higher levels of religiosity” were more likely to be hesitant or resistant about their intent to get vaccinated. Religious skepticism has been around since the invention of vaccines in the West in 1796, when some religious leaders viewed the smallpox vaccine as “acting against God’s will.” Today, remnants of that anti-science argument remain. Influential evangelical pastor John Hagee, for example, has said (before the approval of either vaccine) that “Jesus is the vaccine.”