Paul L. Caron

Sunday, March 7, 2021

To Tackle Vaccine Hesitancy, Philanthropy Must Get Over Its Religion Hesitancy

Chronicle of Philanthropy, To Tackle Vaccine Hesitancy, Philanthropy Must Get Over Its Religion Hesitancy:

VaccineRepublicans, Black Americans, Latinos, and predominantly white rural residents have two surprising things in common: They are more distrustful of the Covid-19 vaccine than other Americans, and they are also more religious. At this critical moment for battling the coronavirus, we need to leverage the second attribute to help address the first.

Large philanthropic organizations have rarely taken full advantage of the nation’s vast network of religious institutions to meet their goals. Faith-based nonprofits receive just 2 percent of all grant dollars from the top 15 private foundations, according to a recent report by the Bridgespan Group. It’s time to break that pattern.

As vaccine supplies catch up with demand, the biggest threat to reaching herd immunity will be getting them off shelves and into willing arms. During this narrow window of opportunity, philanthropy needs to get over its hesitancy to support religious organizations and work with health care institutions, local congregations, and faith-based nonprofits to build trust in the vaccine and create safe spaces for the most hesitant to receive shots.

The data make a strong case for this approach. The country overall is roughly divided between those who would like to get the vaccine as soon as possible and those who are hesitant or resistant, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Covid-19 Vaccine Monitor. But majorities of Republicans (67 percent), African Americans (65 percent), Latinos (57 percent), and rural Americans (56 percent), express hesitancy or resistance to taking the vaccine. ...

The lack of broad engagement with religious groups stems in part from a limited knowledge and comfort level among professionals in philanthropy. Noorain Khan, director of the Ford Foundation’s office of the president and a member of the Muslim Philanthropic Initiative, noted in the Bridgespan report that she observed a persistent “discomfort” among her peers “when it comes to faith‑inspired organizations.”

To help solve vaccine hesitancy, philanthropy needs to get past its own religion hesitancy. It needs to marshal one of our nation’s most important resources for addressing emergencies — our bountiful and trusted religious organizations.

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