Religion Unplugged

Trump calls COVID-19 vaccine ‘a medical miracle,’ but many religious people are skeptical

By Bobby Ross Jr. 
| Religion Unplugged

Editor’s note: Every Friday, “Weekend Plug-In” features analysis, fact checking and top headlines from the world of faith. Got feedback or ideas for this column? Email Bobby Ross Jr. at

“A medical miracle.”

In a Friday night video, that’s how President Donald Trump characterized the first COVID-19 vaccine approved by the U.S. government.

“We have delivered a safe and effective vaccine in just nine months,” Trump said. “This is one of the greatest scientific accomplishments in history.”

But as the New York Times’ Simon Romeroand Miriam Jordan note, “A vast majority of people will need to be vaccinated to create a decisive decline in infections.”

However, “only about half of Americans are ready to roll up their sleeves when their turn comes,” report The Associated Press’ Lauran Neergaard and Hannah Fingerhut.

What’s religion got to do with it? (A lot, actually.)

The Times article features a Mississippi pastor named Adam Wyatt who enrolled in a vaccine trial after one of his congregants died of the virus:

Mr. Wyatt views hospital visits as one of his most important obligations as a pastor, and recalls feeling helpless as he gathered with the congregant’s family in a hospital parking lot, barred from entry by pandemic precautions.

But Mr. Wyatt, 38, did not tell many people about his decision afterward to enroll in the trial in Hattiesburg, about an hour’s drive west of his small town. “You hear, ‘This vaccine is the mark of the beast, don’t get this, it’s Bill Gates’s population control, you’ll get the microchips in you,’” he said. “A lot of my folks probably won’t get it.”

Meanwhile, Washington Post religion writer Sarah Pulliam Bailey traveled to Houston to talk to a pastor whose life depends on the vaccine but who faces skeptics within his own church.

Bailey notes that the pastor, Steve Bezner, is high-risk because of heart failures in his 20s. But he serves a congregation where many members “shun masks and don’t take the virus seriously.”

Bailey’s powerful story explains:

Bezner would be less fearful of his congregants if he and enough of them would get vaccinated for the coronavirus. But many of his Southern Baptist parishioners are skeptical of vaccines or completely opposed to getting inoculated, a reflection of broader suspicion of the coronavirus vaccines among many White evangelicals. They are split nearly 50-50 on whether they “definitely/probably” will get the vaccines, according to a November survey by the Pew Research Center, compared to 60 percent of the American population who say the would get them.

Read the full column.

This column appears in the online magazine Religion Unplugged.

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