Current research shows that young adults in America represent one of the least-vaccinated demographic groups. To address this concern, BNG reached out to a diverse group of young clergy and faith leaders to hear their own stories of choosing to be vaccinated. They are presented here verbatim.
As a 39-year-old pastor with a 10-month-old baby boy, aging parents and many beloved elders in our church family, the vaccine not only benefitted me personally but communally. Even if I am less likely to produce symptoms, I recognize that my ability to carry the virus and pass it to others far outweighs my concern for my own health as an act of Christ-like solidarity and love for my neighbors. I spoke with a chaplain friend recently who said her hospital rotation is filled with middle-aged men with the same story: suffocating and fighting for their life while crying out to God for forgiveness because they thought COVID was a hoax and they infected their whole breakfast club who meets at Hardee’s every week. It does not have to be this way.
Kevin Gardner-Sinclair, pastor, Broadway Baptist Church, Louisville, Ky.
My reason for getting vaccinated was simple: Jesus says to love your neighbor. By getting my COVID vaccine, I am doing just that. As a pastor to children, I work with a population that is vulnerable and at this time isn’t able to be vaccinated. I also visit our senior adult members, many of whom have compromised immune systems. “Loving your neighbor” means doing all you can to care for them, and getting my vaccine is a critical way to care for those around me. As a Christian and as a pastor, it is my obligation, duty and responsibility for my life to be an example of Christ’s love. My prayer is that other Christ-followers will do the same.
Kristen Koger, pastor for children and families, First Baptist Church, Decatur, Ga.
I got my COVID vaccine because I trust my doctors more than the internet. That’s not political, it’s simply true after researching and asking questions. I have two not-yet-eligible-for-vaccination children I would do anything to protect from all the things, so why not protect them by protecting myself? Parents put oxygen masks on first in case of air emergency; this is similar. And truthfully, I want them in school for everyone’s sanity and benefit. Additionally, I know I could never forgive myself if I got sick and then infected someone else, threatening or ultimately taking their life or my own. If I am pro-life, I should be pro-vaccine. My side effects were minimal and manageable; if you have legitimate concerns, I would send a message to your health care providers rather than trust public opinion.
Amy Grizzle Kane, minister, Greensboro, N.C.
A friend of mine in his 20s is a runner whose lungs were damaged by COVID-19. Other friends in their 20s and 30s are long-haulers with foggy minds, exhausted bodies and damaged organs after several months. Even if COVID-19 doesn’t kill you, it can still steal your youth, gifts and health for months, years or permanently. Don’t let that happen. Get vaccinated.
Kaleb Graves, student, Duke Divinity School
I was pregnant when the vaccine finally became available. I had heard the rumors that the vaccine may cause infertility or miscarriage, but I’d also heard stories — verified, not simply rumors — of otherwise young, healthy, pregnant women who contracted the virus with devastating results. I did lots of research and talked to both my OB/GYN and my pediatrician, as well as a research doctor at a local children’s hospital who I knew from church. I learned that there was nothing in the COVID vaccine that led medical professionals to believe it would cause infertility, miscarriage or the other rumors I’d heard, but there was significant evidence showing the opposite: that getting COVID could wreak havoc on pregnancy and endanger the lives of both the mother and the child. I spent time in prayer about it and discussed it with my husband and ultimately decided that the risk of getting the vaccine while pregnant was significantly smaller than the risk of contracting COVID while pregnant. I’m happy to say that at this point, I have been vaccinated for 4 months and this baby is coming in about a week. Every piece of evidence we’ve received through the OB/GYN thus far (bloodwork, ultrasounds, other analysis information) indicates that this has been a healthy pregnancy and that our baby girl is healthy, growing well and ready to meet the world.
Andrea Huffman, pastoral resident, Second Baptist Church, Liberty, Mo.
The congregation I serve has a number of medical professionals who are active members. These are brilliant, funny, wise and eminently capable people. It is humbling to know that they look to me for spiritual guidance. When it comes to medical guidance, I turn to them. Their confidence in the safety and efficacy of this vaccine put to rest any lingering doubts I may have had. I trust them, so I chose to be vaccinated not only because it protects my own health but because it is a way for me to protect the health of my family, my church and my neighbors.
Tyler Tankersley, pastor, Ardmore Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, N.C.
Vaccination is inconvenient, I get it. Lots of younger people cannot readily get off work and perhaps more don’t have a primary care physician. I got vaccinated, in part, so I could do my job without the fear of bringing a deadly virus to one of my church members. What vaccination actually gave me was the freedom and fellowship I desperately needed in a lonely and tough year.
Courtney Stamey, senior pastor, Northside Baptist Church, Clinton, Miss.
The day my son, Langston, was born was the same day that the nurses in the birthing clinic received safety protocols in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Wearing masks, proper handwashing hygiene, and temperature screenings were implemented to protect the health of Langston and other children in the birthing clinic. At the time, this was all anyone could do to keep one another safe. We were comforted to know that the hospital staff committed to the well-being of the children and families who depended on their care. Now, with COVID vaccines widely available across the United States, I had an opportunity and choice, through vaccination, to do my part to contribute to the health and safety of my family, congregation and community. I chose to get vaccinated because I wanted to care for the health of my neighbors in the same way that those nurses and doctors cared for the health of my newborn child.
Emmitt Drumgoole, pastoral resident, Second Baptist Church, Liberty, Mo.
The biggest motivating factor in my own COVID vaccination (apart from my own health and well-being) was a concern for the health of the children in our community. Until the FDA approves a vaccine for those 12 and under, adults have a responsibility to bear the burden of vaccination on their behalf. If there are children who were born during COVID you long to see, young friends who inspire you with their curiosity, or kids who form vital parts of your community, I hope you’ll get vaccinated for their sake. Children are already too vulnerable in this harsh world; let’s do one small thing to make it safer for them (and for everyone).
Aaron Coyle-Carr, pastor, First Baptist Church, Morehead, Ky.
Like a lot of people, I had a good bit of anxiety about getting COVID, so I was always interested in getting the vaccine as soon as I could. Then I did eventually get COVID (before the vaccinations were available), and it wasn’t too bad for me. So my motivation for getting the vaccine changed. It wasn’t so much fear of getting sick; it was a privilege to be a part of the solution. It was my patriotic duty. I could actually do something concrete to help my country find its way out of a public health, economic, education and mental health crisis. So many people my age say they aren’t interested in the vaccine since it’s so new and they are young and healthy and probably won’t become too sick from COVID. But that misses the point, since you can easily pass COVID before knowing you’re infected. For me, the point is to shield our community from the virus enough that it has no more place to go.
Cameron Vickery, lay leader, Woodland Baptist Church, San Antonio, Texas
One of the major reasons I received the vaccination was to be able to set an example and show I trusted the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. Especially knowing the history of mistrust in Black communities given the U.S. government’s past evildoings upon Black Americans with vaccinations. If I truly believed it was safe, I had to act.
Timothy Peoples, senior minister, Emerywood Baptist Church, High Point, N.C.