Religion, Trust, and Vaccine Hesitancy in Australia

An Examination of Two Surveys


  • Thomas Aechtner The University of Queensland
  • Jeremy Farr University of Queensland



vaccine hesitancy, religion, trust, Australia, spirituality


Religion has been identified as a potential driver of vaccine hesitancy. Nevertheless, the connections between religion and immunisation refusal can be complex, while there is a deficit of research exploring religion and vaccination doubts in Australia. With that in mind, this study considers Australian vaccine hesitancy with respect to religion and trust by analysing the 2018 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes and the Australian dataset of the 2018 Wellcome Global Monitor. Statistical analyses reveal no significant correlations between religion and vaccine hesitancy, while participants with negative vaccine attitudes identify that they do not have religious reasons for being vaccine hesitant. Nonetheless, a higher proportion of respondents with negative vaccine attitudes self-identify as religious or spiritual and maintain pro-religious views. It was also found that negative vaccine attitudes are correlated with unfavourable perceptions of both Jews and Muslims. Notably, religious self-identification divides two main groups of vaccine hesitant participants, described as Religious Conservatives and Nonreligious Progressives. These groups diverge on sexual ethics and social concerns, as well as around whether they trust in science as opposed to religion, while differing in their perceptions of Jews. What unites these vaccine hesitant participants, however, is a mutual lack of trust in government and scientists. 

Author Biographies

  • Thomas Aechtner, The University of Queensland

    Thomas Aechtner is an Associate Professor in the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry at the University of Queensland, Australia. His research focuses on science and mass persuasion, including religiously motivated vaccine hesitancy, antievolutionism, scientism, and public perceptions of science.

  • Jeremy Farr, University of Queensland

    Jeremy Farr is a PhD candidate in the University of Queensland’s School of Social Science. His research interests include archaeobotany, historical ecology, and environmental sustainability of food systems in Sub Saharan Africa. He is also interested in the sociology of art, religion, public health, and vaccine hesitancy


Abbas, Qamar, Fatima Mangrio and Sunil Kumar 2021 Myths, Beliefs, and Conspiracies about COVID-19 Vaccines in Sindh, Pakistan: An Online Crosssectional Survey. Authorea Preprints: 1–7.

Aechtner, Thomas 2020 Media and Science-Religion Conflict: Mass Persuasion in the Evolution Wars. Routledge, Abingdon.

Ahmed, Ali, Kah S. Lee, Allah Bukhsh, Yaser M. Al-Worafi, Moklesur R. Sarker, Long C. Ming and Tahir M. Khan 2018 Outbreak of Vaccine-preventable Diseases in Muslim Majority Countries. Journal of Infection and Public Health 11(2): 153–55.

Akbarzadeh, Shahram 2016 The Muslim Question in Australia: Islamophobia and Muslim Alienation. Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 36(3): 323–33.

Allington, Daniel, and Tanvi Joshi 2020 ‘What Others Dare Not Say’: An Antisemitic Conspiracy Fantasy and Its YouTube Audience. Journal of Contemporary Antisemitism 3(1): 35–54.

Alumkal, Antony 2017 Paranoid Science: The Christian Right’s War on Reality. New York University Press, New York.

Amin, Avnika B., Robert A. Bednarczyk, Cara E. Ray, Kala J. Melchiori, Jesse Graham, Jeffrey R. Huntsinger and Saad B. Omer 2017 Association of Moral Values with Vaccine Hesitancy. Nature Human Behaviour 1(12): 873–80.

Andrade, Gabriel 2021 Vaccine Hesitancy and Religiosity in a Sample of University Students in Venezuela. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics 17(12): 5162–67.

Attwell, Katie, Julie Leask, Samantha B. Meyer, Philippa Rokkas and Paul Ward 2017 Vaccine Rejecting Parents’ Engagement with Expert Systems that Inform Vaccination Programs. Bioethical Inquiry 14(1): 65–76.

Baker, Stephanie Alice 2022 Alt. Health Influencers: How Wellness Culture and Web Culture have been Weaponised to Promote Conspiracy Theories and Far-right Extremism during the COVID-19 Pandemic. European Journal of Cultural Studies 25(1): 3–24.

BBC 2021 Covid: Anger as Half of Australians in Lockdown Again. Online: (accessed 21 July 2021).

Beard, Frank H., Brynley P. Hull, Julie Leask, Aditi Dey and Peter B. McIntyre 2016 Trends and Patterns in Vaccination Objection, Australia, 2002–2013. The Medical Journal of Australia 204(7): 275–81.

Biswas, Rafiul, Mahmood Saleh Alzubaidi, Uzair Shah, Alaa A. Abd-Alrazaq and Zubair Shah 2021 A Scoping Review to Find Out Worldwide COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy and Its Underlying Determinants. Vaccines (Basel) 9(11): 1243.

Bodson, Julia, Andrew Wilson, Echo L. Warner and Deanna Kepka 2017 Religion and HPV Vaccine-related Awareness, Knowledge, and Receipt among Insured Women aged 18–26 in Utah. PLoS One 12(8): 1–11.

Bouma, Gary D., and Anna Halafoff 2017 Australia’s Changing Religious Profile—Rising Nones and Pentecostals, Declining British Protestants in Superdiversity: Views from the 2016 Census. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion 30(2): 129–43.

Bramadat, Paul 2017 Crises of Trust and Truth: Religion, Culture, and Vaccine Hesitancy in Canada. In Public Health in the Age of Anxiety: Religious and Cultural Roots of Vaccine Hesitancy in Canada, edited by Paul Bramadat, Maryse Guay, Julia A. Bettinger and Réal Roy, 16–55. University of Toronto Press, Toronto.

Browne, Matthew, Patricia Thomson, Matthew Justus Rockloff and Gordon Pennycook 2015 Going against the Herd: Psychological and Cultural Factors Underlying the ‘Vaccination Confidence Gap’. PLoS One 10(9): 1–14.

Bryden, Gabrielle M., Matthew Browne, Matthew Rockloff and Carolyn Unsworth 2018 Anti-vaccination and Pro-CAM Attitudes Both Reflect Magical Beliefs about Health. Vaccine 36(9): 1227–34.

Callaghan, Timothy, Ali Moghtaderi, Jennifer A. Lueck, Peter Hotez, Ulrich Strych, Avi Dor, Erika Franklin Fowler and Matthew Motta 2021 Correlates and Disparities of Intention to Vaccinate against COVID-19. Social Science & Medicine 272: 1–6.

Cascini, Fidelia, Ana Pantovic, Yazan Al-Ajlouni, Giovanna Failla and Walter Ricciardia 2021 Attitudes, Acceptance and Hesitancy among the General Population Worldwide to Receive the COVID-19 Vaccines and their Contributing Factors: A Systematic Review. EClinicalMedicine 40: 1–14.

Chan, Esther 2018 Are the Religious Suspicious of Science? Investigating Religiosity, Religious Context, and Orientations towards Science. Public Understanding of Science 27(8): 967–84.

Clark, Victoria 2007 Allies for Armageddon: The Rise of Christian Zionism. Yale University Press, New Haven.

Constantine, Norman A., and Petra Jerman 2007 Acceptance of Human Papillomavirus Vaccination among Californian Parents of Daughters: A Representative Statewide Analysis. Journal of Adolescent Health 40(2): 108–15.

Costa-Pinto, Jessica C., Harold W. Willaby, Julie Leask, Monsurul Hoq, Tibor Schuster, Alice Ghazarian, Jacinta O’Keefe and Margie H. Danchin 2018 Parental Immunisation Needs and Attitudes Survey in Paediatric Hospital Clinics and Community Maternal and Child Health Centres in Melbourne, Australia: Parental Immunisation Needs and Attitudes Survey. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health 54(5): 522–29.

CST (Community Security Trust) 2020 CST Research Briefing: Coronavirus and the Plague of Antisemitism. Community Security Trust, London.

DeFranza, David, Mike Lindow, Kevin Harrison, Arul Mishra and Himanshu Mishra 2021 Religion and Reactance to COVID-19 Mitigation Guidelines. American Psychologist 76(5): 744–54.

Douglas, Karen M., Joseph E. Uscinski, Robbie M. Sutton, Aleksandra Cichocka, Turkay Nefes, Chee Siang Ang and Farzin Deravi 2019 Understanding Conspiracy Theories. Political Psychology 40(1): 3–35.

Dube, Eve, Dominique Gagnon, Emily Nickels, Stanley Jeram and Melanie Schuster 2014 Mapping Vaccine Hesitancy: Country-specific Characteristics of a Global Phenomenon. Vaccine 32(49): 6649–54.

Edwards, Ben, Nicholas Biddle, Matthew Gray and Kate Sollis 2021 COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy and Resistance: Correlates in a Nationally Representative Longitudinal Survey of the Australian Population. PLoS ONE 16(3): 1–11.

Eriksson, Kimmo, and Irina Vartanova 2021 Vaccine Confidence is Higher in More Religious Countries. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics 18(1): 1–3.

Fong, Amos, Jon Roozenbeek, Danielle Goldwert, Steven Rathje and Sander van der Linden 2021 The Language of Conspiracy: A Psychological Analysis of Speech Used by Conspiracy Theorists and their Followers on Twitter. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations 24(4): 606–23.

Fournet, N., L. Mollema, W. L. Ruijs, I. A. Harmsen, F. Keck, J. Y. Durand and M. P. Cunha et al. 2018 Under-Vaccinated Groups in Europe and their Beliefs, Attitudes and Reasons for Non-Vaccination; Two Systematic Reviews. BMC Public Health 18(1): 196–96.

Fridman, Ariel, Rachel Gershon and Ayelet Gneezy 2021 COVID-19 and Vaccine Hesitancy: A Longitudinal Study. PLoS One 16(4): 1–12.

Furnham, Adrian 2022 Personal Correlates of Covid-19 Vaccine Hesitancy. Health 14(1): 38–45.

Grabenstein, John D. 2013 What the World’s Religions Teach, Applied to Vaccines and Immune Globulins. Vaccine 31(16): 2011–23.

Gravelle, Timothy B. 2021 Explaining Islamophobia in Australia: Partisanship, Intergroup Contact, and Local Context. Australian Journal of Political Science 56(2): 132–52.

Grossman, Sharon G. 2019 Resolving the Debate over Human Pappiloma Virus (HPV) Vaccination for Cancer Prevention in the Religious World. Tradition 51(2): 50–75.

Haire, Bridget, Paul Komesaroff, Rose Leontini and C. Raina MacIntyre 2018 Raising Rates of Childhood Vaccination: The Trade-off Between Coercion and Trust. Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 15(2): 199–209.

Halafoff, Anna, Enqi Weng, Cristina Rocha, Andrew Singleton, Alexandra Roginski and Emily Marriott 2020 The Pandemic has Provided Fertile Conditions for Conspiracy Theories and ‘Conspirituality’ in Australia. Online: (accessed 19 February 2020).

Hamdi, Sabrine 2018 The Impact of Teachings on Sexuality in Islam on HPV Vaccine Acceptability in the Middle East and North Africa Region. Journal of Epidemiology and Global Health 7(Supplement 1): S17–S22.

Hornsey, Matthew J., Emily A. Harris and Kelly S. Fielding 2018 The Psychological Roots of Anti-Vaccination Attitudes: A 24-Nation Investigation. Health Psychology 37(4): 307–15.

Hornsey, Matthew J., Martin Edwards, Josep Lobera, Celia Díaz-Catalán and Fiona Kate Barlow 2021 Resolving the Small-Pockets Problem Helps Clarify the Role of Education and Political Ideology in Shaping Vaccine Scepticism. British Journal of Psychology 112(4): 992–1011.

Hossain, Mohammad Bellal, Zakiul Alam, Syful Islam, Shafayat Sultan, Mahir Faysal, Sharmin Rima et al. 2021 COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy among the Adult Population in Bangladesh: A Nationwide Cross-sectional Survey. PLoS One 16(12): 1–19.

Hwang, Seo Eun, Woong-Han Kim and Jongho Heo 2021 Socio-demographic, Psychological, and Experiential Predictors of COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy in South Korea, October–December 2020. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics 18(1): 1–8.

Jose, Renju, and Jonathan Barrett 2021 More than Half of Australia’s Population under COVID-19 Lockdowns. Online: (accessed 21 July 2021).

Kahan, Dan 2014 Vaccine Risk Perceptions and Ad Hoc Risk Communication: An Empirical Assessment. Online: (accessed 10 October 2017).

Kanozia, Rubal, and Ritu Arya 2021 ‘Fake News’, Religion, and COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Media Asia 48(4): 313–21.

Knaus, Christopher, and Michael McGowan 2021 Who’s Behind Australia’s Anti-lockdown Protests? The German Conspiracy Group Driving Marches. Online: (accessed 2 August 2021).

Kossowska, Malgorzata, Paulina Szwed and Gabriela Czarnek 2021 Ideology Shapes Trust in Scientists and Attitudes towards Vaccines during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations 24(5): 720–37.

Kuhn, Chase 2021 Should Christians be Opposed to Vaccination?. Online: (accessed 28 July 2021).

Larson, Heidi J., Louis Z. Cooper, Juhani Eskola, Samuel L. Katz and Scott Ratzan 2011 Addressing the Vaccine Confidence Gap. The Lancet 378(9790): 526–35.

Larson, Heidi J., Alexandre de Figueiredo, Zhao Xiahong, William S. Schulz, Pierre Verger, Iain G. Johnston et al. 2016 The State of Vaccine Confidence 2016: Global Insights through a 67-Country Survey. EBioMedicine 12(C): 295–301.

Larson, Heidi J., Caitlin Jarrett, William S. Schulz, Mohuya Chaudhuri, Yuqing Zhou, Eve Dube et al. 2015 Measuring Vaccine Hesitancy: The Development of a Survey Tool. Vaccine 33(34): 4165.

Lee, Charlotte, Kathryn Whetten, Saad Omer, William Pan and Daniel Salmond 2016 Hurdles to Herd Immunity: Distrust of Government and Vaccine Refusal in the US, 2002–2003. Vaccine 34(34): 3972–78.

Lewandowsky, Stephan, Gilles E. Gignac and Klaus Oberauer 2013 The Role of Conspiracist Ideation and Worldviews in Predicting Rejection of Science. PLoS One 8(10): 1–11.

Mann, John, and Lewis Arthurton 2020 From Anti-vaxxers to Antisemitism: Conspiracy Theory in the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Office of HM Government’s Independent Adviser on Antisemitism, London.

Marti, Melanie, Monica de Cola, Noni E. MacDonald, Laure Dumolard and Philippe Duclos 2017 Assessments of Global Drivers of Vaccine Hesitancy in 2014: Looking beyond Safety Concerns. PLoS ONE 12(3): 1–12.

Masaryk, Radomír, and Mária Hatoková 2017 Qualitative Inquiry into Reasons Why Vaccination Messages Fail. Journal of Health Psychology 22(14): 1880–88.

Milligan, Megan A., Danielle Hoyt, Alexandra K. Gold, Michele Hiserodt and Michael W. Otto 2021 COVID-19 Vaccine Acceptance: Influential Roles of Political Party and Religiosity. Psychology, Health & Medicine: 1–11.

Murphy, Jamie, Frédérique Vallières, Richard P. Bentall, Mark Shevlin, Orla McBride, Todd K. Hartman et al. 2021 Psychological Characteristics Associated with COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy and Resistance in Ireland and the United Kingdom. Nature Communications 12(1): 29.

Numbers, Ronald L. 2006 The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.

Olagoke, Ayokunle A., Olakanmi O. Olagoke and Ashley M. Hughes 2020 Intention to Vaccinate Against the Novel 2019 Coronavirus Disease: The Role of Health Locus of Control and Religiosity. Journal of Religion and Health 60(1): 65–80.

Parmigiani, Giovanna 2021 Magic and Politics: Conspirituality and COVID-19. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 89(2): 506–29.

Peretti-Watel, Patrick, Valérie Seror, Sébastien Cortaredona, Odile Launay, Jocelyn Raude, Pierre Verger et al. 2020 A Future Vaccination Campaign against COVID-19 at Risk of Vaccine Hesitancy and Politicisation. Lancet Infectious Diseases 20(7): 769–70.

Plohl, Nejc, and Bojan Musil 2021 Modeling Compliance with COVID-19 Prevention Guidelines: The Critical Role of Trust in Science. Psychology, Health & Medicine 26(1): 1–12.

Poynting, Scott, and Linda Briskman 2018 Islamophobia in Australia: From Far-Right Deplorables to Respectable Liberals. Social Sciences 7(11): 213.

Rhodes, Anthea 2017 Vaccination: Perspectives of Australian Parents. The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, Melbourne.

Rochmyaningsih, Dyna 2018 Indonesian Fatwa Causes Immunization Rates to Drop. Science 362(6415): 628–29.

Rössler, Wulf, Christoph Lauber, Jules Angst and Helene Haker 2007 The Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the General Population: Results from a Longitudinal Community Study. Psychological Medicine 37(1): 73–84.

Rozek, Laura S., Pauline Jones, Anil Menon, Allen Hicken, Samantha Apsley and Elizabeth J. King 2021 Understanding Vaccine Hesitancy in the Context of COVID-19: The Role of Trust and Confidence in a Seventeen-Country Survey. International Journal of Public Health 66: 1–9.

Sanvisens, Néstor, Inés Küster and Natalia Vila 2020 Identifying Profiles of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Believers and/or Users. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 39: 1–9.

Singleton, Andrew, Anna Halafoff, Mary Lou Rasmussen and Gary Bouma 2021 Freedoms, Faiths and Futures. Bloomsbury, London.

Smee, Ben 2021 Anti-lockdown Protests across Australia as Covid Cases Surge to Record Levels in Sydney. Online: (accessed 26 July 2021).

Spector, Stephen 2009 Evangelicals and Israel: The Story of American Christian Zionism. Oxford University Press, New York.

Stuart, Riley 2021 Fears Sydney Anti-lockdown Protest could be COVID-19 ‘Superspreader Event’. Online: (accessed 26 July 2021).

Sturm, Tristan, and Tom Albrecht 2021 Constituent Covid-19 Apocalypses: Contagious Conspiracism, 5G, and Viral Vaccinations. Anthropology & Medicine 28(1): 122–39.

Sulaiman, Kamal-deen O. 2014 An Assessment of Muslims Reactions to the Immunization of Children in Northern Nigeria. Medical Journal of Islamic World Academy of Sciences 22(3): 123–32.

Touyz, Sarah J. J., and Louis Z. G. Touyz 2013 The Kiss Of Death: HPV Rejected by Religion. Current Oncology 20(1): 52–53.

Trent, Mallory, Holly Seale, Abrar Ahmad Chughtai, Daniel Salmon and C. Raina MacIntyre 2021 Trust in Government, Intention to Vaccinate and COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy: A Comparative Survey of Five Large Cities in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. Vaccine 40(17): 2498–2505.

Upenieks, Laura, Joanne Ford-Robertson and James E. Robertson 2021 Trust in God and/or Science? Sociodemographic Differences in the Effects of Beliefs in an Engaged God and Mistrust of the COVID-19 Vaccine. Journal of Religion and Health 61(1): 657–86.

Van Buynder, Paul G. 2014 Large Measles Outbreak in a Religious Community in British Columbia. Journal of Vaccines & Vaccination 5(5): 1–3.

Ward, Jeremy K., Caroline Alleaume, Patrick Peretti-Watel and COCONEL Group 2020 The French Public’s Attitudes to a Future COVID-19 Vaccine: The Politicization of a Public Health Issue. Social Science & Medicine 265: 1–6.

Ward, Paul R., Katie Attwell, Samantha B. Meyer, Philippa Rokkas and Julie Leask 2017 Understanding the Perceived Logic of Care by Vaccine-hesitant and Vaccine-Refusing Parents: A Qualitative Study in Australia. PLoS ONE 12(10): 1–15.

Waszkiewicz, Pawel, Piotr Lewulis, Michal Górski and Wojciech Feleszko 2021 Vaccines and Political Divisions: An Analysis of the Attitudes toward Vaccination and Political Preferences in Poland. Online: (accessed 19 January 2021).

Weng, Enqi, and Anna Halafoff 2020 Media Representations of Religion, Spirituality and Non-Religion in Australia. Religions 11(7): 1–15.

Wielders, C. C., R. S. van Binnendijk, B. E. Snijders, G. A. Tipples, J. Cremer, E. Fanoy et al. 2011 Mumps Epidemic in Orthodox Religious Low-vaccination Communities in the Netherlands and Canada, 2007 to 2009. Eurosurveillance 16(41): 14.

Wiesenfeld, Maia 2017 The Infectious Opposition to HPV Vaccination in the Jewish Community. Derech HaTeva 21: 62–64.

Wolstenholme, Andrew, Claire Duffy and Craig Smith 2017 National Immunisation Research: Quantitative Research Report. Department of Health, Canberra.

Zimmerman, Ann, and Betsy McKay 2013 Texas Church is Center of Measles Outbreak. Online: (accessed 7 March 2013).

Zimmerman, Richard K., and Jonathan Raviotta 2013 Steps for Clinicians and Public Health Officials to Take to Reach Persons of Faith, for the Sake of Protecting All against Vaccine-preventable Diseases. Vaccine 31(16): 2009–10.



How to Cite

Aechtner, T., & Farr, J. (2022). Religion, Trust, and Vaccine Hesitancy in Australia: An Examination of Two Surveys. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 35(2), 218-244.