Episode 2: The Religious Roots of Vaccine Denial

Why did around 25% of Americans refuse to take the covid-19 vaccine? The pandemic raised the issue of vaccination to a new height in public awareness. In this episode, we look at the religious roots of vaccine resistance in the US with Kira Ganga Kieffer from Boston University. Beginning with the documentary Died, Suddenly, we learn about claims that vaccines are a cover for elites trying to depopulate the Earth. We talk about the social media campaign around the documentary, in which sudden deaths are linked to vaccines, including some famous examples. Tiffany Dover, a nurse who was among the first to receive a covid-19 vaccine, fainted and claims of her death went viral, persisting even after she did interviews and released a video explaining that she was alive. We look at the effect of online misinformation on vaccine decisions, and how the health freedom movement has leveraged social media to spread its messages.

For more information about research-based media by Axis Mundi Media visit: http://www.axismundi.us

For more information about public scholarship by the Institute for Religion, Media, and Civic Engagement follow us @irmceorg or go to http://www.irmce.org

Created by Dr. Susannah Crockford

Funding for this series has been generously provided by the Henry Luce Foundation. 

Executive Producer: Dr. Bradley Onishi (@bradleyonishi) 

Audio Engineer: Scott Okamoto (@rsokamoto)

Production Assistance: Kari Onishi 

Dr. Susannah Crockford (@suscrockford)

Ripples of the Universe: Spirituality in Sedona, Arizona

Kira Ganga Kieffer is writing a book for Princeton University Press based on her dissertation, Pure Bodies, Sacred Souls: Religion and Vaccine Skepticism in Modern American History

Truthers: Tiffany Dover Is Dead. Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/truthers-tiffany-dover-is-dead/id1618512442 

Larson, Heidi J. Stuck: How Vaccine Rumors Start – and Why They Don’t Go Away. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020.

Millward, Gareth. Vaccinating Britain: Mass Vaccination and the Public since the Second World War. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2019.

Sobo, Elisa J. “Theorizing (Vaccine) Refusal: Through the Looking Glass.” Cultural Anthropology 31 (2016): 342-50. https://doi.org/10.14506/ca31.3.04 

Wolfe, Robert M, and Lisa K Sharp. “Anti-Vaccinationists Past and Present.” BMJ: British Medical Journal 325 (2002): 430. https://doi.org/10.1136/BMJ.325.7361.430 

“How American conservatives turned against the vaccine,” Vox https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sv0dQfRRrEQ&ab_channel=Vox

Stay in the loop