What are some reasons people have vaccine hesitancy in Alabama (USA), where you are based?
Bishop Jefferson-Snorton: There are a number of reasons people are hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine. First, some think the vaccine was made too quickly, because they lack an understanding of vaccine development and ongoing scientific research that enabled this particular vaccine to be produced using already-tested technology. Second, the vaccine became a political issue. Some people believe the vaccine is a statement of support for a particular political ideology. Third, particularly for African-Americans, there is hesitancy based on historic health disparities and undisclosed, unauthorized research and experimentation on Black people. There is fear that the vaccine is a repeat and has consequences/side effects of which we are not being informed. Finally, many people have heard various conspiracy-type theories about the vaccine related to the reasons I cited above.
What are some positive ways churches are helping people overcome their hesitancy?
Bishop Jefferson-Snorton: I divide this into three main areas.
Information and education. Churches can provide accurate information to people about this vaccine, its development, and what it does and does not do. Workshops, webinars, flyers, bulletin boards, social media, etc. are all a great means of this information/education campaign.
Access. Churches can assist people with making appointments, set up "pop-up" vaccine sites in their parking lots, and/or provide transportation to vaccine appointments.
Networking and partnerships. Churches should develop partnerships with local, regional and/or state health agencies, clinics, hospitals, other healthcare providers and other churches to accomplish the two initiatives identified.
What can we pray for you and your churches as you continue to face these challenges?
Bishop Jefferson-Snorton: Pray for energy to continue to inform, educate and provide resources to congregations and communities. Some messages have to be repeated over and over again.
Pray for those most vulnerable to the coronavirus, and perhaps fearful to get the vaccine because they have so many other health issues.
Pray for the sick.
Pray for the grieving.
Pray that we can hear God’s voice as we live into new ways of being the church of Jesus Christ in a world that has been altered by this pandemic.