Religious Wisdom & Sacred Texts On Vaccination & Public Health

Public health crises and even plagues are not new for religious communities. The ongoing threat posed by Covid-19 has led religious leaders, scholars, and practitioners to continue to discuss, debatand articulate what their traditions have to say about this centuries-old challenge. Some articulations cut across traditions; for instance, majorities of most religious groups in the U.S. see getting vaccinated as an example of loving your neighbor (Figure 2.1, PRRI-IFYC March 2021 Survey). Many articulations speak from the language and scripture of a particular tradition; below is a sampling of sacred texts and statements, listed in alphabetical order by religion, that religious communities have used to engage in the work of public health amidst this global pandemic.  These texts were drawn from public statements and IFYC’s alumni network. 

(Listen in full to a rich discussion on the pandemic and expanding access to vaccination between Eboo Patel, Founder and President of Interfaith Youth Core; Kameelah Rashad, co-founder of the National Black Muslim COVID Coalition; Rev. Otis Moss III, Senior Pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ; Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, President of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership; and Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners. Read more about the work of Faith in the Vaccine Ambassadors, challenges around religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine and the effectiveness of faith-based outreach to encourage vaccination.)  

Texts & Quotations 


  • All are afraid of the stick, all hold their lives dear. Putting oneself in another's place, one should not beat or kill others. - Sayings of the Buddha: Sermon at Benares. Dhammapada X:130 
  • Health is the greatest gift, contentment is the greatest wealth, a trusted friend is the best relative, Nibbana is the greatest bliss.” Sayings of the Buddha: Sermon at Benares. Dhammapada XV:204 
  • “Comparing oneself to others in such terms as "Just as I am so are they, just as they are so am I," he should neither kill nor cause others to kill.” -Sutta Nipata 705 


  • "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?”  Bible, Jeremiah 8:22 
  • “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” - Bible, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 
  • But whoever has worldly goods and sees his brother or sister in need, and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God remain in him? Little children, let’s not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. - Bible, 1 John 3:17-18 
  • The Good Samaritan (Bible, Luke 10:25-37) - to get a vaccine is to be a good neighbor. 
  • "Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law."  Bible, Romans 13:10 
  • "The Nation doesn't simply need what we have, it needs who we are" - St. Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein) 
  • "Show me your hands. Do they have scars from giving? Show me your feet. Are they wounded in service? Show me your heart. Have you left a place for divine love?" - Venerable Fulton J. Sheen 
  • “Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.” - St. Thérèse of Lisieux 


  • The principle of ahimsa is a call to do no harm and revere life. 
  • All living bodies subsist on food grains, which are produced from rains. Rains are produced by performance of yajña [sacrifice], and yajña is born of prescribed duties. - Bhagavad G¯ıta¯ 3.14. 
  • 25 The ignorant work for their own profit, Arjuna; the wise work for the welfare of the world, without thought for themselves. 26 By abstaining from work you will confuse the ignorant, who are engrossed in their actions. Perform all work carefully, guided by compassion." - Lord Shri Krishna, Bhagavad G¯ıta 


  • “And do good; indeed, Allah loves the doers of good”- Quran 2:195 
  • “Never will you attain the good [reward] until you spend [in the way of Allah ] from that which you love. And whatever you spend – indeed, Allah is Knowing of it” - Quran 3:92 
  • Ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Take advantage of five before five: your youth before your old age, your health before your illness, your riches before your poverty, your free time before your work, and your life before your death"Shu’ab al-Imān 9575 
  • "For this reason, We decreed for the children of Isrā’īl that whoever kills a person not in retaliation for a person killed, nor (as a punishment) for spreading disorder on the earth, is as if he has killed the whole of humankind, and whoever saves the life of a person is as if he has saved the life of the whole of humankind" Quran 5:32 
  • "He has only prohibited for you carrion, blood, the flesh of swine and that upon which a name of someone other than ‘Allah’ has been invoked. Then, whoever is compelled by necessity, neither seeking pleasure nor transgressing, there is no sin on him. Verily, Allah is Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful" Quran 2:173 


  • In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self. Lord Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara 
  • The function of souls is to help on another.” – Tattvartha Sutra 5.21 
  • The primary source of the healing power is compassion. You must be concerned with loving a fellow being. When you bring to this charity, serenity of heart, and balance of mind, you are on your way to becoming a channel for healing. A feeling of sharing and caring flows out and from that flow comes healing. I call that force a blessing…” – Gurudev Chitabhanu 


  • "One who saves one life, it is accounted as if a world is saved," - Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:9 
  • "God created food and water; we must use them in staving off hunger and thirst. God created drugs and compounds and gave us the intelligence necessary to discover their medicinal properties; we must use them in warding off illness and disease." - Maimonides's Commentary on Mishnah Pesachim 4:9 
  • "Seeing that the maintenance of the body in a healthy and sound condition is a God-chosen way, for, lo, it is impossible that one should understand or know aught of the divine knowledge concerning the Creator when he is sick, it is necessary for man to distance himself from things which destroy the body and accustom himself in things which are healthful and life-imparting." - MaimonidesMishneh Torah, Human Dispositions 4  Sefaria 
  • And He said: "If you will diligently harken to the voice of the L-rd, your G-d, and will do that which is right in His sight, and will give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon you which I put on the Egyptians; for I am the L-rd, your healer". - Exodus 15:26 
  • I am the L-rd, your healer, and I teach you the Torah and the commandments in order that you may be saved from these diseases - like a physician who says to a man: "Do not eat this thing lest it will bring you into danger from this illness". – Rashi’s commentary on Exodus 15:26 
  • "Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world."  - Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:1 (22a)  
  • The principle of pikuach nefesh is that almost anything else should be set aside to save a life. 

Secular Humanism: 

  • “We assert that humanism will: (a) affirm life rather than deny it; (b) seek to elicit the possibilities of life, not flee from them; and (c) endeavor to establish the conditions of a satisfactory life for all, not merely for the few. By this positive morale and intention humanism will be guided, and from this perspective and alignment the techniques and efforts of humanism will flow.” – 15th affirmation within the American Humanist Association’s Humanist Manifesto III 
  • “Vaccines are the tugboats of preventive health.” William Foege, M.D. 
  • “One cannot separate the health of the individual from the health of the community, from the health of the world.” Hunter Doherty “Patch” Adams, M.D. 
  • “If we wait for the government, it will be too late; if we act as individuals, it will be too little; if we act as communities, it might just be enough.” Rob Hopkins, environmentalist and activist 


  • The belief that people of all faiths worship one divine being (Waheguru) who created this world and lives within it. One does not fight for justice for themselves alone, but for all. Similarly, vaccines help to protect not just me but also the larger community. - Educator’s guide to Sikhism and interview with Sikh Coalition Community Development Director 
  • In our daily prayers, all Sikhs say a prayer called "Ardaas" (asking for blessing). This is a prayer lead by one person for the entire congregation or just for yourself, and the standardized version that all Sikhs say includes a line asking for the blessings of high spirits, health, and well-being for all of humanity. This is the line that concludes the prayer. 

How much do you know about the religious and secular traditions that make up our diverse nation? Some answers may surprise you! Take our Interfaith Literacy Quiz and find out!

Organizational Statements on Vaccines: 


  • Many denominations (Evangelical Lutheran Church in AmericaPresbyterian Church in AmericaUnited Church of ChristUnited Methodist Church) do not have official statements on vaccines but are offering their churches as vaccination sites and have created resources pages.  
  • Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR): No Statement but they are participating in a massive virtual webinar with Dr. Anthony Fauci along with more than 120 partner organizations to build vaccine support in the American-Muslim Community.  
  • Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC): No Statement but concerned about the discrepancies between state vaccine distribution. See here 


  • United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism: Resources for synagogues 

Secular Humanist 



If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

It is incredibly empowering to know that by protecting yourself, you can protect so many other people.  The Lord gave us the knowledge and people we need in order to defeat COVID-19.
"99.8% of U.S. deaths are of the unvaccinated. If you heard of an airline of that percentage dying, whereas a 0.02% on another, you’re switching flights." -- Dr. Jimmie Smith, Macon-Bibb County Health Department, Georgia.
As a scholar of religious studies, I frequently use critical race theory as a tool to better understand how religion operates in American society.
Inspired by their faith, four LDS students built new study resource that has revolutionized how hundreds of thousands of aspiring physicians study for their exams. "It really started because we just wanted to help people," one said.
We're now in one of the holiest seasons of the year for one of smallest and oldest religions in India -- one with a long history in the United States.
Organizing on-campus vaccination clinics, calling thousands of students, hosting informational webinars with medical experts – these are some of the ways in which IFYC’s Faith in the Vaccine Ambassadors (FIVA) have been raising awareness around the COVID-19 vaccine on campuses and high-need communities across the nation.
Last year's winners, listed below, created a range of initiatives, from virtual retreats and criminal justice initiatives to book clubs and racial equity workshops.
Religious objections, once used sparingly around the country to get exempted from various required vaccines, are becoming a much more widely used loophole against the COVID-19 shot.
What will the campus chapel, and the chaplaincy, look like more than a century from now? Let the adventure begin.
The issue is not the presence of religion in the public square. Instead, the question before us is how to express those religious commitments within in a pluralistic society.
We don’t know what the year 5782 – as it is in the Hebrew calendar – has in store for any of us. But we have the power to act in a way to do right by each other and bring a little more peace and love and joy into this profoundly broken world.
The following interview features Dr. Toby Bressler, senior director of nursing for oncology and clinical quality at the Mount Sinai Health System and vice president of the Orthodox Jewish Nurses Association.
Part of what I found so beautiful about our conversation is that we both agree that American pluralism is not simply a pragmatic solution to the challenge of a diverse democracy, it is also a kind of sacred trust that God intends us to steward.
After 9/11, there was increased intentionality in widening interfaith relations to include a broader number of faith groups and discussions. Twenty years later, it is not unusual to see interreligious conferences, joint advocacy efforts and disaster relief teamwork involving faith groups ranging from Adventists to Zoroastrians.
Twenty years later, we at IFYC, like so many others, collect the shards of memory, recollecting, reconstituting the trauma and horror of that day. And the sacredness is in doing so together.
As we approach this significant anniversary of 9/11, we must work to infuse the day with purpose and pluralism. Pay it Forward 9/11 is bringing people together to do 20,000 good deeds for the 20th anniversary.
In the first month since 9/11, The Sikh Coalition documented over 300 cases of violence and religious discrimination against Sikhs in the U.S. and has since grown to become the largest Sikh advocacy and civil rights organization in the country.
“If you were to quiz these students on what happened on 9/11, they think they knew what happened, but nobody really explained it to them,” Lisa Doi said. “I had to think through, how do you teach this history to somebody who doesn’t really remember it?”
My prayer is that for as long as we remember 9/11, that we will take time to listen to the stories of loss that break our hearts, and join together in finding ways to heal the division, violence and hate that continue to tear apart our world.
It has been 20 years, but the pain of that day is still present in so many places.
20 years after the 9/11 attacks, four remarkable people took profound suffering, loss and grief and “somehow managed to not center enemies. What can we learn from that? How can that be a teaching to the culture?”

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.