Many Americans who are distrustful of the COVID-19 vaccine are also some of the nation’s most religious. In this piece for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, the leaders of Interfaith Youth Core and Public Religion Research Institute outline how philanthropies can help broaden vaccine adoption by funding existing networks of trust and support that exist with religious institutions.
“One innovative effort, funded by the Henry Luce Foundation and coordinated in part by the Public Religion Research Institute, tapped an existing network of religion scholars at more than a dozen universities, seminaries, and other organizations to make grants to over 130 local groups and religious organizations providing emergency services to vulnerable populations in the past year. These networks and programs could be replicated to create a robust, nationwide Faith in the Vaccine program.”
Republicans, 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.