Church leaders use their background in science to address vaccine hesitancy

Pastor Xavier Jackson of Chapman Grove Baptist Church and Juanita Matkins of Yanceyville...
Pastor Xavier Jackson of Chapman Grove Baptist Church and Juanita Matkins of Yanceyville Christian Church are using their background in science to give vaccine advice.(WVIR)
Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 11:03 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Some people on the fence about getting the COVID-19 vaccine are turning to their church congregation for advice, especially from those who have a background in health and medicine.

“They’re not going to let us take a vaccine that’s not been tested, that’s not been proven. It’s appropriate and the time is now,” Chapman Grove Baptist Church Pastor Xavier Jackson said.

Jackson’s message comes as he’s heard concern both in and out of his church about the vaccine.

“There were little questions, more statements, just not secure in the actual vaccine,” Jackson explained. “Some thinking, ‘It’s too soon.’”

That’s where his background in medicine comes in handy: the pastor has a biology degree from the University of Virginia and practiced clinical medicine for 14 years.

“I am a scientist, and so I agree with the science, I can follow the science, and encourage them in that vein,” Jackson said.

Juanita Matkins, a member of Yanceyville Christian Church in Louisa, is handling concerns in her church the same way: She’s a retired professor and has a Doctorate in Science Education from William & Mary.

Matkin says starting a conversation about the vaccine can alleviate anxiety surrounding the shot.

“We made time during our church Sunday school meetings to talk about how they were doing. People who had fears, hesitancies, questions, can ask them,” Matkins said. “We talked about our symptoms, we talked about what were the side effects, and then we would report back in.”

Matkins says the church actually helped people in the congregation register to get their vaccine once shipments came to Louisa County. She and other church members with backgrounds in science worked to squash vaccine misinformation, consistently quoting Dr. Anthony Fauci.

But sometimes, she says, taking science out of the conversation completely can make a difference. It made her own son choose to get vaccinated.

“I said to my son, who hadn’t been vaccinated, because he’s young and he thinks, ‘I don’t need get vaccinated.’ I said, ‘I’m uncomfortable around you because I’m afraid I’m going to make you sick and that makes me uncomfortable,’” Matkins explained. “‘I love you and I want to be with you and I want to be happy with you.’”

Both Matkins and Jackson are using their spiritual beliefs to encourage others to get vaccinated.

“It’s about taking care of your neighbor,” Matkins said. “That’s the bedrock of Christianity.”

“I think that’s really great for us to have the attitude that I’m not protecting me, I’m protecting you,” Jackson said. “If we have that kind of spirit about us, what a wonderful place this world would be. I care about you. You care about me. Everything is going to be wonderful.”

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