More religious countries tend to have higher confidence in vaccines, according to a new study published in the journal Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics.
“I am generally interested in cultural differences, with religiosity as one of the key variables of interest. A colleague suggested that I take a look at a recent paper on vaccine confidence and I realized this was a topic where religiosity could play an important role,” said study author Kimmo Eriksson, a professor at Mälardalen University and researcher at the Institute for Futures Studies.
Eriksson and his colleague, Irina Vartanova, analyzed data from 147 countries collected by Gallup World Poll. The researchers found that people from more religious countries were more likely to agree with the statements “I think vaccines are safe,” “I think vaccines are important for children to have,” and “I think vaccines are effective.”
“The take-away message is straightforward: vaccine confidence is higher in more religious countries. This is important because many people have the opposite intuition,” Eriksson told PsyPost.
The researchers statistically controlled for life expectancy at birth, education, and standard of living using data from the United Nations Development Programme.
“The outstanding question is what causes the observed correlation,” Eriksson explained. “It does not seem to be a spurious correlation caused by some third variable (the obvious candidates, such as human development, fail to account for the finding.)”
“Our hypothesis is that where vaccine confidence is undermined it tends to be due to beliefs that are based neither in science nor in religion, hence more likely to be crowded out in more religious societies.”
However, the data used in the study was collected in 2015 and 2019, prior to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus and the development of COVID-19 vaccines.
“Confidence specifically in COVID vaccines is likely to be shaped partly by context-specific processes; therefore, we cannot yet say to what extent our findings generalize to this situation,” Eriksson noted.
The study, “Vaccine confidence is higher in more religious countries,” was published March 11, 2021.