Dr. Jill Olivier at the University of Cape Town led The Immunization Learning Hub in 2014
The Learning Hub members aimed to develop and communicate robust, practical evidence on the under‐documented role of local faith communities (LFCs) for community systems strengthening. They drew together diverse materials (after assessment for quality and relevance) – particularly focused on LMIC settings. Although given the lack of materials from LMIC settings, information from higher income settings is included where considered highly relevant.
What evidence exists on religion and immunization, where is this situated, and how are related issues approached?
What are the key evidence‐gaps in relation to engagement with local faith communities in relation to immunization?
Is further joint‐learning useful on this specific issue, and who are the potential partners in such a process?
What we know:
History shows a number of intersection points between religion and immunization that extend further back than the recent surge of international interest
There is a high level of interest in ‘missed populations and closed communities’
Considerations of context and complexity are important – especially working with local faith communities
Getting to grip with the complex world of religion and vaccine resistance is key
The need for interdisciplinary and multi‐sectoral and engagement on religion and immunization
The need for cross‐over interdisciplinary studies and actions, which draw lessons from different areas of engagement
Working with local theologies is required – but there is only limited engagement of religious studies scholars and theologians in immunization response
The need for religiously‐competent program staff and health workers
Engaging religious leaders in genuine social mobilization and advocacy
Improving communication strategies (interpersonal, local, national and international) with and through LFCs should be considered
There is a huge gap in evidence on the specific nature and extent of routine immunization services provided by faith‐based health providers
The global health community is focusing on immunization in relation to universal health coverage, targeting missed populations and closed communities. However, there are widely acknowledged historical politico-economic factors affecting UHC. In high-income countries, there is continued resistance to immunization within some communities, and in lower income countries, recurring challenges over the elimination of poliomyelitis remain despite massive efforts. The links between religion and vaccination have been obvious for decades. However, there is little analysis of engagement with religious actors in immunization intervention, nor are there many models for engagement. We synthesise available evidence on religion and immunization.
Preventable child deaths outrage everyone. Immunization campaigns save millions of children’s lives and therefore unite widely divergent communities. But the untapped potential for partnerships to extend vaccination coverage, especially involving religious actors, is large. Two critical challenges are important and offer great promise: extending newer vaccines (notably against rotavirus and pneumococcus) and reaching underserved populations (“the fifth child”). The support and cooperation of religious communities, at global and national levels, is essential for both—leaders and communities can help address challenges and prevent the grave problems that arise when religious leaders oppose vaccination (such as in Pakistan and Nigeria). In building partnerships there are four priorities: (a) informing populations and building trust; (b) focusing on underserved populations; (c) overcoming barriers to vaccination campaigns in tumultuous countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo where faith networks are especially vital players; and (d) helping through holistic health approaches to “connect the dots” among different public health and welfare efforts to meet the needs of people and communities.
Religious leaders, with their tremendous authority at the grass roots, are key to garnering community support for broad immunization coverage. This workbook, designed for communication and programme officers and their immunization partners, provides guidelines on forging alliances on immunization with religious leaders and groups. It also offers advice on options that can be taken when confronting resistance to immunization, illustrated by success stories from three countries.
This is a broad scoping review mapping and understanding the available literature on ‘religion and immunization’. The goal is to note where evidence and information can be found and to identify key areas for further research, engagement and partnership. An annotated bibliography accompanies the Report
On March 24th and 25th, 2014, the International Interfaith Peace Corps (IIPC) in partnership with the Government of the Republic of Senegal cohosted an international summit entitled Vaccinations and Religion: Issues, Challenges, and Prospects. The summit brought together more than 80 African Muslim government officials, medical professionals, and religious leaders to identify the challenges associated with vaccination in resistant and hard-to-reach communities in Africa in order to issue a declaration in support of disease prevention and help raise awareness within Muslim-majority communities about the necessity and importance of vaccination. Ultimately, the goal was to identify strategies to increase vaccine acceptance in their domestic constituencies.
IHP, in partnership with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), has published this resource guide and toolkit. The Model Practices Framework provides strategies to identify and engage faith-based organizations as partners in community health promotion and disease prevention outreach. Designed for both public health and religious leaders, the aims of the guide are to contribute to partnership-building capacity and to enhance the ability of public health to reduce the spread of influenza.
The CORE Group Polio Project (CGPP) and its partners in India, Angola, and Ethiopia have led successful social mobilization efforts to reach difficult-to-access populations critical for polio eradication.These include extremely poor rural and urban communities, ethnic and religious minorities who resist immunizing their children, and others such as newborns, pastoralists, migrants, and those in transit across national borders. Working through grassroots nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) including religious leaders, CGPP social mobilization activities have contributed to the current polio-free status in all three countries and have improved the coverage of children’s routine immunizations as well. Marking a shift from the earlier dominance of epidemiological perspectives, today behavior-change communication —advocacy, interpersonal communication, and social mobilization — is recognized internationally as the way forward in this final phase of polio eradication.
Speakers presented about the unique contributions of faith based organizations, faith institutions and faith leaders, to achieving the promise of vaccines in health services delivery, community mobilization and advocacy.