Utah’s vaccination rate increased after The Church of Latter-day Saints issued a strong statement encouraging vaccinations, then declined in the weeks that followed.
“To limit exposure to these viruses, we urge the use of face masks at public meetings whenever social distancing is not possible,” the church statement read. “To provide personal protection against such serious infections, we urge people to get vaccinated. The vaccines available have been shown to be both safe and effective.”
The governing body, known as the First Presidency, has reportedly asked California Mormon leaders not to sign religious exemptions for the vaccine. The state of Utah is 61% Mormon.
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Some 65% of Mormom church members said they supported vaccination, according to a July report from the Public Religion Research Institute. The remaining 35%, however, threaten the Mormon Church’s long-standing tradition of large public religious gatherings.
A week after the church’s announcement encouraging vaccination, Utah’s seven-day vaccine delivery average fell from 7,204 to 8,076, Newsweek reported. The following week, the average dropped to 7,517 before falling back to 7,267 the following week.
Matt Harris, an expert on Mormon history at Colorado State University in Pueblo, says the minority of vaccine-resistant Mormons are “used to conspiracy theories” and absorb information outside of the First Presidency’s instructions.
“Because they get used to these conspiracy theories over the years, it’s easy for Latter-day Saints today to think the election was stolen or the vaccines are bad,” Harris said. . “This is how they were brainwashed into seeing the world and also the government.”
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The John Birch Society, an entity linked to former Mormon leader Ezra Taft Benson, is to blame for the minority of Mormons who fall into this category, Harris says. Benson was the 13th president and prophet of the church from 1985 to 1994, bringing far-right, anti-Communist influence into the church.
“Benson and his scouts had been planting the seeds for at least three or four decades,” Harris explained. “When Trump was elected in 2016, it kind of brought this all to life.”
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Key words: News, Mormons, Utah, Immunization
Original author: Matthew Miller
Original location: Vaccinations in Utah surge after encouragement from Mormon leaders, plunge over ‘conspiracy theories’