Many evangelicals say they will not be vaccinated against Covid-19. Some experts say mistrust and misinformation played a role

Many evangelicals say they will not be vaccinated against Covid-19. Some experts say mistrust and misinformation played a role

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“I’m just going to tell you today, if being anti-mask and anti-vaccine is anti-government, then I’m proud to be anti-government,” Spell, who made a national name for himself protesting against the rules of Covid-19 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, told worshipers at Life Tabernacle Church.

He goes on to wrongly state: “If you have a 99.6% survival rate, why do you want someone to contaminate your bloodstream with something that may or may not hurt you? “

While 95% of evangelical leaders who responded to a January survey by the National Association of Evangelicals said they would be ready to get the vaccine, Spell is adamantly against it. He is among the large number of evangelical Christians who have remained opposed to vaccination against Covid-19.

In a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released last month, 28% of white adults who identify as evangelical Christians said they definitely would not get a vaccine, 6% said they would only get the vaccine if they had to, and 15% said they would wait and see.

The sentiment of anti-Covid vaccination among evangelicals is fueled by a mixture of mistrust of the government, ignorance of how vaccines work, misinformation and political identity, some experts say.

“They (evangelicals) are the group that is most likely to say they are not going to get the vaccine,” Samuel Perry, a sociology professor at the University of Oklahoma specializing in religion, told CNN. “They have from the start exercised or expressed the most resistance to the vaccine. “

And they’ve maintained that position time and time again in the polls over the past six months, according to Perry.

Misinformation has contributed to evangelical mistrust of vaccines

Among Republicans, white evangelical Christians are more likely than other religious groups to believe in certain conspiracy theories, according to a study by the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

“There is a tendency within white Christian nationalism to want to believe these kinds of plots, because I think it reinforces this idea of ​​one us versus them,” Perry said. “The problem is, the people who harbor this fear are made to keep stoking that fear because people keep clicking and people keep listening. ”

News and information “silos” also play a role in vaccine reluctance among evangelicals, who listen to conservative media hosts who question vaccines or outright denounce them, Perry said.

Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, for example, recently wondered if vaccines actually work.

Some at Life Tabernacle Church Say They Won’t Get Vaccinated

Spell’s congregation is quite diverse, in part because it serves people from all over town. CDC data shows blacks and Hispanics are about three times more likely than whites to be hospitalized with Covid-19 and about twice as likely to die from the disease.

Although people of color tend to be most at risk for Covid, the pastor said he always discourages vaccines.

“I don’t know anyone in my church, black, brown, Salvadoran, Honduran and Mexican, who has had the virus,” he said. ” I do not know anyone. “

Perry said executives like Spell “have really bought into this idea that if I keep sowing this narrative where people feel victimized, fearful and angry, I can continue to build my audience, build my own credibility in this group. of people who say, ‘Yeah, not everyone is trustworthy except you.’ ”

At Life Tabernacle Church, a handful of people CNN spoke with said they were not interested in the vaccine.

Jeff Jackson, a parishioner at Life Tabernacle Church, told CNN he believed vaccines were “harmful to your health.”

Patricia Seal, also a parishioner from Life Tabernacle Church, said as she loves former President Donald Trump, “When he was talking about getting the shot, I said, you can have it whatever you want. I do not want it. “

Jacob McMorris, another parishioner at Life Tabernacle Church, said he also did not want to be vaccinated.

“I feel like it, and I know it works medically, but when you put something in you to help you stop having it, it just doesn’t work for me,” he told CNN. . “I never liked the idea of ​​it. “

Only one person interviewed by CNN, Kerry Williams, said he had been vaccinated. “Yeah, I got the vaccine,” he says, noting that he has yet to go get his second vaccine.

Health expert: 70% of the population must be vaccinated to help control the virus

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the number of Americans who have been vaccinated and who intend to be vaccinated continues to rise, while the number of people who say they want to “wait and see” is declining.

But for white evangelicals, the number of people who say they are opposed to a Covid vaccine remains high, Perry said, and that can be a problem for some areas, where they make up a much higher percentage of the population than at the level. national.

“We’re going to see the consequences in those parts of the country,” Perry said. “And it will be felt by the vulnerable and the elderly. “

Evangelicals make up about 25% of the American population, according to Pew. And some experts say 70% of the population needs to get vaccinated to help control Covid-19.

“This is a highly contagious infection,” Dr. William Schaffner, professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, previously told CNN. “So we predict that to really control the disease significantly, we will need to at least vaccinate around 70% of the population, it’s so contagious, that we need a lot of people protected so that the virus can’t find anyone else.” . infect. “

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