White US evangelicals ‘hesitant’ to get Covid jab

A survey finds religious affiliation influences coronavirus jab uptake, a psychologist explains why.

Video Transcript

JAMIE ATEN: There's a number of different reasons why white Evangelicals are hesitant to get vaccinated. For some, it stems from political views. [? From ?] others, it's a sign of tribalism, in the same way that some refuse to wear a mask, that now this is the latest in which they are identifying themselves. For many people, there's also a sense of them being hesitant because of mistrust of government.

- How much misinformation is out there, as well?

JAMIE ATEN: Significant misinformation. And that's one of the biggest reasons why I think we're seeing so many white Evangelicals who are hesitant to get vaccinated, that as we've been in this pandemic and many people being quarantined, for some, the only interactions that are happening with others is online, whether that's through media, social media-- and it's really created an echo chamber, where they're only interacting with people that have similar beliefs, and unfortunately, for many, misinformation.

- You mentioned politics, James. How much is this a health issue and how much of it is a political one for people?

JAMIE ATEN: I think a lotta people do have some serious concerns about medical issues, just-- including, like, some of the individuals that you were just interviewing, because of fears that that could happen to them. But by and large, I think-- especially among the white Evangelical community in the United States, I think politicism is largely what's driving this, that in many ways, COVID-19 has been taken from being a public health issue, which is how it should be viewed, and turned into a political issue.

- So leadership at this point, then, must be crucially important.

JAMIE ATEN: Absolutely. And I have been able to work under the last administration-- Like in terms of visiting the White House for a meeting, working with faith communities, and also the previous administration before that, under President Obama. And I was able to see a clear difference between the two, where unfortunately, President Trump, many of his views were actually making the crisis much worse and fueling the flames of misinformation. And I've been really encouraged attending regular weekly meetings with the White House's faith-based partnerships. And one of the things that I've seen from President Biden has been a very strong leadership role and clearly [? communicating-- ?] especially with the faith community. I was actually on a call last week and was just really moved by the way that he's reaching out and taking extra steps to engage the faith community in healthy ways.

- Speaking to virologists and epidemiologists over these many months, I've been struck by how many say they are concerned about what they see as an increasing distrust, but-- around science, basically. Is that also broadly happening within the Evangelical faith, too?

JAMIE ATEN: Yes. That's something that is going on and has been going on. If you look across the history of the US, there's been a major tension for really the history of our country between both science and faith. You know, you can look back for instance to the Scopes trials, where you saw, you know, science in some ways being put on trial. But at the same time, faith communities have also been put on trial to some extent early on.

So as a psychologist myself, in my-- terms of my training, that-- there was a long history of stigmatism against people of faith. That's drastically changed and improved, I'm glad to say. But that lingering between that tension continues to remain today.