CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. — Nearly half of white evangelicals say they will not get a coronavirus vaccine, according to a recent survey, and a local pastor said many in his congregation seem very distrustful of the shot and see getting it as backing a political agenda they don't support.
Weekly vaccination numbers are dropping across the U.S., the Centers for Disease and Control stated. That same trend is also reflected in North Carolina with weekly vaccination rates at an all-time low, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said.
The Pew Research Institute conducted a survey, asking U.S. adults whether they intend to get vaccinated and also asked their religion.
The results showed intent to get vaccinated against COVID-19 varies by religious affiliation.
Forty-five percent of white evangelicals said they will not get a vaccine — the largest group out of the religious affiliations.
Johnathan Foster is pastor at Vertical Life Church in Newton, and he said he sees the survey results reflected in his congregation.
Vertical Life is considered a white evangelical church. Foster says they do have Black, Asian, Hispanic and white members but have mostly white evangelical congregates.
Foster said he has seen the decision to get vaccinated turn into a political decision for his members, instead of a health choice.
"If I had to give an opinion of why, I really think mistrust would be the primary reason and the motive behind why that is," Foster said.
He says a large percentage of his members are Republican and conservative, and they don't trust the politicians delivering the message regarding vaccinations.
"They don’t view it prescribed by the doctor. They view it as mandated by the government," Foster said.
He said the members who have been vaccinated are elderly, care for the elderly or were required to by their employer.
"The other half doesn’t feel threatened by COVID-19," Foster said.
He believes if members would see their religious core values reflected in the political leaders, they may consider it, but he also believes the damage has been done.
“During the candidacies, and the election, this issue was politicized, and now since [it was] politicized they feel like if they give success to any group that they can take credit for those numbers, then they’re betraying their political agenda," Foster said.