COVID-19 vaccine influencers
April 9, 2021

Jerry Falwell Jr., the former head of Virginia's Liberty University and among the most prominent white evangelical Christian supporters of former President Donald Trump, got his first shot of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, and like many of the newly inoculated, he posted a vaccine selfie to Instagram. He urged his followers to get vaccinated as well, portraying it as a way to keep Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) from enacting "mindless restrictions."

With polls showing white evangelicals among the least likely to get vaccinated, prominent evangelicals like Falwell are working to decrease vaccine hesitancy among their followers, The Associated Press reports. The response so far has been ... mixed. Rev. J.D. Greear, head of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest evangelical denomination, posted a photo of himself getting vaccinated last week, as did Franklin Graham. Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress has spoken in support of vaccinations, as has Rev. Russell Moore, head of the SBC's public policy arm.

The vaccine skepticism among white evangelicals "doesn't have anything to do with religious beliefs," Moore told PBS NewsHour on Thursday. "It's instead about the mistrust and distrust that's evident in American society right now," combined with "the fact that we have been isolated from one another in lots of ways for over a year," allowing misinformation to spread. "And that's why lots of us are doing what we can to say, vaccination is not only something that's acceptable for Christians," he said, "it's something we ought to thank God that we have the technology for."

Many evangelicals hesitant now, "I think, will eventually come around," especially if everyone focuses on "what's possible if we get vaccinated in large numbers," Moore said. "We want to be able to get as close back to normal as we can. And that's probably especially true for people who are religious communities, because we believe we ought to be congregated together."

And if that isn't persuasive, Thursday's Late Show had a similar message, wrapped in a Beach Boys homage. Peter Weber

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