Bay Area medical experts react to religious exemptions for COVID-19 vaccine

More employers and schools are requiring the vaccine unless the worker has a religious or medical exemption. This week, the Archdiocese of New York told its priests not to give religious exemptions.

The vast majority of religions are encouraging its members to get the shot including the Diocese of San Jose. UCSF’s Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Monica Gandhi thinks more religious leaders should take a stand.

On the Diocese of San Jose web site, it encourages everyone to strongly consider getting vaccinated for the sake of their own health and the common good of our community.

The Archdiocese in New York took it a step further telling its priests not to issue Covid-19 religious exemptions.

"I totally agree with that because it’s more than a year and a half and we are going through tough times," said Kamal Kannan of San Jose.

"Currently, what’s happening in our whole world is science based," said Arianna Piccolo of San Jose.

In the memo, found on social media, the Archdiocese of New York writes, "there is no basis for a priest to issue a religious exemption. By doing so he is acting in contradiction to the directives of the pope and is participating in an act that could have serious consequences."

Dr. John Swartzberg of U.C. Berkeley is not surprised by the move.

"Members of these major religions around the world," said Dr. Swartzberg. "None of them have a policy or belief system that would object to people getting vaccinated."

Pope Francis has said it is morally acceptable. A group of bishops had cast doubt on the morality of the vaccines saying that they could be connected to cell lines from aborted fetuses.

"It isn’t at all true, it isn’t how these vaccines are created, it’s genetic material," said Dr. Gandhi.

Dr. Gandhi said other religious leaders should follow the Archdiocese of New York. She said those applying for a religious exemption must show it’s a longstanding belief and the leaders of the religion endorse it.

"The burden of proof is really high for you to apply for a religious exemption," said Dr. Gandhi.

Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Azenith at and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or