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Support for vaccination increasing significantly among white evangelicals

White evangelicals now are much more accepting of COVID-19 vaccination than they were in March, a new survey found.

The survey of 5,123 adults by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Interfaith Youth Core shows that 56 percent of white evangelicals either have received the vaccine or plan to get it. That’s an 11-poing increase from March, when only 45 percent answered that way.

The news comes as the much less deadly Delta variant spreads even among the vaccinated.

Republicans and Fox News viewers saw even larger jumps in vaccine acceptance. Among adults who identify as Republican, 63 percent either have received the vaccine or plan on getting it — an 18-point jump from March, when it was 45 percent. Viewers of Fox News also saw an increase in vaccine acceptance, from 54 percent in March to 64 percent today.

Among all U.S. adults, 67 percent said they have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and another 4 percent say they plan on receiving it. According to the latest CDC data, 69 percent of adults have received at least one dose, and 60 percent are fully vaccinated.

“The survey data reveal a remarkable shift among Americans from vaccine hesitancy to acceptance, across almost every demographic,” said Natalie Jackson, director of research for the institute.

Still, white evangelicals remain the leader in vaccine refusal among religious subgroups, with 24 percent — a 2-point decrease from March — saying they won’t get the vaccine.

Another 20 percent of white evangelicals say they’re hesitant to get the vaccine. But the data shows that unvaccinated evangelicals could be swayed: One-third of those who have not received the vaccine say a faith-based approach to the vaccine could change their mind.

High-profile evangelicals have encouraged believers to get the vaccine. Those include former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Franklin Graham.

“I determined that the benefits of getting vaccinated outweighed any potential risks,” Sanders wrote in an op-ed. “I was also reassured after President Trump and his family were vaccinated. If getting vaccinated was safe enough for them, I felt it was safe enough for me. It was heartbreaking to witness men and women break down and cry with fear they would lose everything, It’s something I never want to experience again. I believe the Trump vaccine will help keep our state open for business and our economy growing.”

Graham, in an interview with ABC news in March, was equally adamant about Christians getting the vaccine. “My father believed in modern medicine,” said Graham, the son of the late Billy Graham. “If anytime there was a vaccine or something that could help protect you, he was an advocate for it. He took it. I believe that it’s consistent with scripture — that we protect our lives and do whatever we can to save life. So I don’t have any problem with telling a person to take an aspirin or telling a person to have a vaccine.”

Faith leaders say that it will take more respected leaders and community efforts to convince the skeptical.

“Faith-based approaches have been and will continue to be effective in convincing Americans to receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” said Eboo Patel, founder and president of the Interfaith Youth Corps. “As we examine exactly what it is that is working in encouraging Americans to get vaccines, it is clear that community-based interventions are critical. By working together to encourage vaccination among hesitant populations, we are saving lives.”

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice