Religious Leaders Can Help Build Vaccine Confidence

This article originally appeared in Forbes. Below is an excerpt.

Muslim clerics helped increase vaccination rates in Pakistan. An ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem mandated that children get vaccinated following a measles outbreak. Religious and local leaders are working with pygmy communities to increase trust in the Ebola vaccine in the Democratic Republic of Congo (where vaccination workers have been killed amidst widespread fear regarding the vaccine). And the Vatican and other religious authorities have expressed approval of live vaccination in the absence of other alternatives.

Rwanda, which is one of the most vaccine-confident nations in the world, is an especially good case. It has successfully (and nearly universally) rolled out the HPV vaccine by emphasizing its role in preventing cervical cancer and deliberately avoiding references to sexual health. In addition to educators and community health workers, religious organizations have helped to raise awareness of the vaccine’s benefits. (In general, faith-based organizations have been important shapers of healthcare in post-genocide Rwanda.)

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