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USA News

Christian geneticist Francis Collins says vaccine hesitancy among evangelicals frustrates him 'a bit'

by Kelly Valencia

Prominent US Christian geneticist, Dr Francis Collins has admitted being 'a bit' frustrated with fellow evangelicals who are hesitant to take the Covid-19 vaccine in the US. 

"It is odd because evangelicals generally believe strongly in this love-your-neighbour principle. And we do know if we want to get this terrible pandemic to come to an end, it's going to require all of us to get engaged in getting immune, and the best way to do that is with a vaccination," Dr Collins told Religion News Service. 

The National Institute of Health's director also said he was trying to "listen carefully to what the concerns are" as he doesn't think "lecturing" is the best way to change people's minds. 

His remarks come as President Joe Biden announced new policies which will require US businesses with 100 or more employees to be fully vaccinated or have weekly proof of a negative Covid test. 

The US government has struggled with controlling the spread of the Delta variant, leading to an average of 1,000 covid deaths a day.

A recent study by Public Religion Research Institute and Interfaith Youth Core revealed white evangelicals remain the most likely to refuse vaccination.

Dr Collins continued by saying that although he believed pastors are "trusted partners" in encouraging vaccination, he understands they have been put in a "tough spot". 

"Some of them, even though they've come around, personally, to the view that the vaccine is something they want for themselves and their families, they've been reluctant to raise it amongst their parishioners because of the fear this might be divisive. 

"I'm hoping we've now reached the point where the evidence is so strong - where we see people dying around us - that those faith leaders will decide it's worth taking the risk to get some pushback. To basically say, folks, let's look at the truth of this. The truth will set you free." 

Dr Collins concluded by saying he hopes Biden's new policies will make "a big difference" in reducing the numbers of unvaccinated people and stressed that the country needs to raise the average of vaccinations a day by at least by five times. 

Currently, 49 per cent of the US population is vaccinated.

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