Early in 2021, White evangelicals were the least likely of any demographic to accept the COVID-19 vaccine. In March, a Pew study found that about 45 percent of White evangelicals were either probably or definitely not going to get the vaccine — the highest of any religious group surveyed. But it’s been an interesting few months and White evangelicals appear to be coming around on the idea of vaccinations. A June survey from Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and the Interfaith Youth Core found that 56 percent of White evangelicals are open to getting vaccinated now. That’s an increase of 11 percent.
The rise was even higher for Republicans and Fox News viewers. 63 percent of self-identified Republicans are either vaccinated or plan on getting the vaccine, an increase of 18 points since March. Fox News viewers went from 54 percent to 64 percent. White evangelicals remain the country’s most vaccine hesitant group, with 24 percent refusing to get the vaccine and another 20 percent saying they’re “hesitant.”
National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins told CNN he believes the rise in vaccine acceptance is being fueled by the Delta variant. Though research suggests that vaccinated individuals can spread the Delta variant, the vaccine is still very effective at reducing the risk of a serious case of the disease. Unvaccinated people account for the vast majority of hospitalizations and 99 percent of COVID-related deaths, which is why the White House has started referring to COVID as a “pandemic among the unvaccinated.”
The CDC now estimates that about 69 percent of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 60 percent are fully vaccinated. This is good news as the Delta variant starts sending confirmed cases of COVID-19 the wrong direction in the U.S.
One key to turning those numbers around? Faith leaders. Research shows that clergy are among the best candidates for convincing the vaccine hesitant to get the jab. Last week, a pastor who came down with a life-threatening case of COVID-19 after refusing to get vaccinated started telling his story on social media in an attempt to convince others to learn from his mistake. “I was wrong,” Pastor Danny Reeves tweeted last weekend from his hospital bed. “I pray my experience is a lesson to whomever you are.”