Children's Hospital Colorado

The History of Vaccines and Religion with Josh Williams, MD (S3:E25)

There is a rich history dating back hundreds of years that tells a story of the relationship between vaccines and physicians, as well as the important intersection of vaccines, belief systems and religion.

Listen to a pediatric expert discuss the history of vaccines

In this episode, we discuss the history of vaccines and religion with Josh Williams, MD. For a discussion about today's anti-vaccination climate, listen to our discussion with Peter Hotez, MD, PhD.

Dr. Williams is a pediatrician at Denver Health Medical Center and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

In this episode, our expert discusses:

  • Being awarded a research grant to do a pilot survey on clergy attitudes toward vaccines
  • The process of variolation as the earliest form of vaccination in 12th-century Turkey
  • The fascinating story of how Lady Mary Wortley Montagu brought variolation into England
  • Edmund Massey’s famous sermon against the practice of variolation in 1722
  • The role of Puritan preacher Cotton Mather in advocating the practice
  • How Mather learned about variolation from his Libyan-born slave in 1706
  • The irony that organized opposition to variolation was led by doctors and politicians
  • The 2013 review article by John Grabenstein about what religions teach about vaccines
  • Common religious objections to vaccination that have been linked to outbreaks
  • General clergy attitudes toward vaccination and speaking about it to their congregations
  • The impact of states that offer both personal belief and religious exemptions
  • The opportunity to advocate for vaccination by getting religious leaders on board
  • The main drivers in the decrease in vaccination rates of the last decade