Such a longer view can and should inform how we think about vaccine resistance (refusing to take a vaccine) as something different from vaccine hesitance (uncertainty about taking a vaccine).
Vaccine resisters have been around a long time, and are hardly a monolithic group. They have been shaped by their political and cultural environments, and appear across the political spectrum. Over time, they have learned to use religious exemptions to sidestep vaccination, despite the fact that no major religion forbids vaccination, and that vaccine resisters often leverage religious exemptions to gain moral authority for what are often political or conspiracy-based views. To reach this group, vaccine advocates have to better understand how religious exemptions have been politicized, and how they can be limited in order to protect public health.
The same pattern emerged in the 1960s and 1970s after the development of a measles vaccine. Resistance came from across the political spectrum, though left-wing resisters often preferred the language of personal belief rather than religion.
But it also is part of a much broader effort to, in the short term, scotch the Biden administration’s attempts to bring the pandemic under control and, in the long term, make religious exemptions a primary, powerful tool for undermining as many liberal policies as possible.