Franklin Graham Unfazed after Evangelical Base Blasts Him for Encouraging Vaccines

By Yonat Shimron
Vaccine Samaritan's Purse
A man receives a COVID-19 vaccine from Samaritan's Purse in a church gym in Boone, North Carolina. (Photos courtesy Samaritan's Purse)

As Facebook posts go, it was pretty straightforward.

“I have . . . been asked if Jesus were physically walking on earth now, would He be an advocate for vaccines,” wrote Franklin Graham in a Facebook post.

Graham’s answer? “I would have to say — yes, I think Jesus Christ would advocate for people using vaccines and medicines to treat suffering and save lives.”

The blowback was fast, and it was furious.

“Sorry, Brother. While other vaccines have been beneficial, I seriously doubt this vaccine is one of them,” was among the more tame responses.

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“I’ll take the Oil and Wine, but NOT Experimental Gene Therapy,” wrote another.

“I just lost all respect for you spreading such garbage as saying Jesus would have taken that vaccine, that is a devilish lie!”

Graham, the son of the Rev. Billy Graham and the often-polarizing evangelist and missionary, doesn’t typically part company with his white evangelical audience.

But the March 24 post revealed a deep divide among evangelicals, many of whom are suspicious of COVID-19 vaccines. The comments correspond to  a recent Pew Research poll that found only 54% of white evangelicals “definitely or probably” plan to get vaccinated — the lowest of any U.S. religious group.

Graham’s post kicked up a lot of dust, drawing 20,000 comments and nearly 10,000 shares. It was the top-three highest-performing Facebook posts the day it was posted. Though his supporters ultimately rallied online, those who vehemently oppose vaccines initially overpowered them.

Graham, however, has remained nonplussed.

“I can’t say anything without getting blowback from somebody,” said Graham, founder and president of Samaritan’s Purse, the globetrotting Christian humanitarian relief organization.

“The left will blow back; the right will blow back. The only way to make everybody happy is to keep your mouth shut. I’m not very good at that.”

Vaccine Samaritan's Purse
Samaritan’s Purse administers COVID-19 vaccines in a church gym in Boone, North Carolina. (Photos courtesy Samaritan’s Purse)

But it also revealed the way Graham navigates his evangelical bonafides. Graham is public enemy No. 1 for his organization’s stance on LGBTQ issues. He is hated by Democrats for his clarion defense of Donald Trump and Republican politics.

But when it comes to medicine, count Graham an advocate.

Part of it is his own family history.

His mother’s father, Dr. L. Nelson Bell, was a medical missionary to China.

“When the polio vaccine came out, he was asked to take charge of vaccinating the children in our small area of North Carolina,” Graham recounted of his grandfather. “They put a blue vaccine in a sugar cube. You put it in your mouth and that was it.”

Graham is now following in his footsteps.

In Boone, North Carolina, Samaritan’s Purse has partnered with the Watauga County Health Department, a local pharmacy and a local church to vaccinate 3,500 people.

This past year Samaritan’s Purse erected half a dozen mobile field hospitals across the world to treat people suffering from COVID-19. His staff at these tent hospitals work jointly with medical professionals from some of the best hospitals in the world.

And Graham has watched his own staff suffer from the coronavirus. His son, Edward, came down with COVID this past winter. So did Ken Isaacs, vice president of programs and government relations for Samaritan’s Purse.

“I’ve seen first hand what COVID will do and believe me, you do not want it,” Graham said. “It’s not the cold. It has a dark, ugly side to it.”

Graham said he will stop short of requiring all Samaritan’s Purse employees to get the vaccine. But he’s also clear that if his employees must travel, they may not be able to perform their jobs if they are not vaccinated, because some airlines won’t allow them to fly.

Graham said he’ll continue to advocate for vaccines and has been vaccinated himself — as has his family.

“Look how many people’s lives (vaccines) have saved? Millions of lives,” he said. “We’ve had smallpox, measles. The list goes on. I would encourage everyone to pray about it and consider it.”

Yonat ShimronYonat Shimron is a national reporter and senior editor for Religion News Service.



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40 thoughts on “Franklin Graham Unfazed after Evangelical Base Blasts Him for Encouraging Vaccines”

  1. Jesus Himself advocated medicine so what is the problem. Get over it people. Spend more time praying and reading the Word rather than fighting each other. The world is watching our example.

  2. I’m a wait and see guy. Not opposed, not in favor. I’m 76 years old and in good health. If I get COVID and die, then my conclusion is “heaven isn’t so bad.” This is a new approach with no longterm testing and very little animal testing. These are reasonable questions to cause one to pause. This is not a religious/spiritual issue for me.

    1. I’m 70 and I want to live. Live physically, emotionally, & spiritually. I want to “live” with my fellow humans. I want to laugh, love and be close to others. I want touch. I want others around me. I have had both shots over 6 weeks now. I am around others and I am happier than I have been in a year.
      Thank you Lord God for helping all of us to live a better life again. Thank you so much. Amen.

  3. Here we go again. Evangelicals thinking there is a bogeyman in medicine or any other medical issue for that matter. Maybe we should go back to the time when Europe suffered through the plague or the black death as it was known then and ask the people if there was a medicine available to stop the disease and even heal you would you take it. I think it’s pretty much a no-brainer. Oh and by the way, I’m on several medications which if I was not taking I would be dead or in very very bad physical condition to the point of being immobilized. If as an evangelical or Christian of any other denomination you don’t want to take medicine that is completely up to you. But please do not tell me that my faith in my Savior is weak or even nonexistent if I take medicine. Please don’t do that to me. It’s very insulting.

      1. I am a medical doctor and follower of Christ. I am chagrined at the paranoia that seems to lace so many Christians’ opinions about vaccination, yet who are willing to spend money on anecdotal ‘essential’ oils, herbs and the like. I’ll leave it at that. So much more on my mind. Thanks SAMS for your comment.

        1. That is so true Steve – beyond true – about the essential oils. The thought pattern is so true at so many levels.

          I’ve seen many cases in my experience where someone is more willing to buy a prayer cloth than pick up the phone and contact their primary care physician when there are health concerns. There is a pull to believe spiritual warfare is at the center of a relational breakdown, but are reluctant to first try to start with a common sense conversation to reconcile.

          If I trace it to the root of what I think is REALLY is happening here ( and this is just my opinion), it’s about jealousy. It’s MY belief that many evangelical leaders are jealous when some of life ‘s problems are solved by medical science or technology— things unrelated to church. Some evangelical leaders want EVERY problem to be somehow spiritually related, so THEY (the evangelical leaders) get to be part of the solution.

          To put themselves at the center of things they have to invent problems and conspiracies. The COVID vaccine is just the latest cycle of the repeating pattern.

          – My 2 cents


          1. God is my guide and it’s the 21st century

            I read a story about witches being burned at the stake for practicing witchcraft in the 1600s. These woman were using herbs and plants to do magic on children. The church put a stop to that. You know what the book was about? Moms who by accident discovering a early form of penicillin type healing agent. Since the kids were healed by this devils brew vs prayer the church, run by GODLY men made sure they had the sins burned from them. How many of our modern day evangelicals would do the same if this was the 1600s? Jealous is a good word to use and hubris is there cloak they wear.

        2. επιστήμονας

          I am a scientist by trade and degree, have worked in the field for over 40 years. I know and understand the virus and how the current set of relatively new mRNA vaccines work.
          The issue is that this vaccine has not been tested for long term effects.
          Historically vaccines go through a rigorous testing process, the average being 10-15 years, before being distributed to the human populace.
          All due respect, I am not going to be a test subject, even if my doctor or any doctor, the CDC, WHO, etc…, says ‘it’s safe’, without the proper testing!
          Other than that, I am fine with most vaccines that I can think of.

    1. Believer in God and not in evangelicals

      And exhausting. Trying to keep up with all the latest “profits “ telling me god said this to them and god said that to them and oh trump still isn’t the President. Sorry evangelical industrial complex, your prophets are faded.

    2. Evangelicals still think the earth is round. Lord help them. Good luck to PDave for being so indifferent about covid. I recommend all folks especially ones over 65 to get the vaccine. I think your kids would like you to stay a around a bit longer.

  4. Why does the writer have to default to the obligatory “…doesn’t typically depart from his white evangelical audience.”? Race again. And again. And again. Please stop that.

  5. Good for him. I can respect him for this in spite of the fact that I don’t on a lot of other things, including his support of Trump.

    My parents were missionaries also, and many fellow missionaries were medical professionals. None of them hesitated to get vaccines then, and those who are still with us are not hesitating now. We should never bow to ignorance and the politicization of public health. The vaccines are safe. They do not alter one’s DNA. The major ones are MRNA, a specific strand of genetic material that triggers an immune response so your body learns how to defend itself against the virus. That is basically how vaccines work. By the way, the virus itself, like other viruses, is nothing more than a specific sequence of DNA and a very harmful one at that; it’s not even technically a living thing like bacteria are.

    Today’s white American evangelicalism has bought into lies and conspiracy theories wholesale. That’s what selling their collective soul for worldly power has gotten them.Most believers outside of America are aghast at what it has become.

  6. I think it’s interesting that the most “online” segment of his audience, the ones who responded first, were the ones against the vaccine. Then, as the less “online” people chimed it, the response balanced out. A connection between living life online and misinformation?

  7. Does Mr Graham and those who advocate the use of these vaccines not care that aborted babies have been used in their development and testing? This is the deciding factor for me. Is it expedient that little ones should be killed that others might live?

    1. Incorrect VincentLyons. Neither Moderna or Pfizer use aborted babies- completely false on how they researched and manufacture their Covid-19 vaccines. Hear the Ed Stetzer interview with Dr. Jay Butler on Facebook where that “concern” was specifically addressed in great detail.

    2. Remember that vaccines that have been made using cell lines derived from fetal tissue since the late 1800’s. Some of the vaccines using fetal cell lines include:

      Chicken pox

      Not to make your decision any more difficult but it has been used for a very long time and just not since abortion has been legalized. I know it is a difficult decision and I do not want it more confusing but this is very common to use fetal cell lines in the development of vaccines. I pray God will give you wisdom and peace in your decision.

      1. What a lovely and grace-filled answer, Bob. The number of condescending superior comments all over social media about these things is so very discouraging. And wearying. Makes me wonder where all the Christians have gone. Thank you for lifting my heart a little this evening.

      2. Thank you for the information. The decision is easy and I have peace about it. I have been largely unaware of the use of aborted babies in the past but now that I know I must decide to follow as I believe God would have me.

      3. Bob, thank you for your tone. It is a sobering reply, hinting at more to ponder. The way you conveyed respect for another person considering this issue was really uplifting.

      4. Bob,

        Since then some of those diseases have had vaccines developed that do not use the stem cell lines from an abortion. You can specifically request the alternate ones that are available.

        1. Another question is what was the nature of the abortion that gave rise to those stem cell lines. If the abortion had to be done to save the mother’s life for example, then I would think even the most ardent pro-lifer would be okay with that.

      5. As a fascinating side note, not all vaccines have been derived from fetal cell lines, but from other cell lines that might’ve been derived by questionable means.

        Has anyone here heard of HeLa cells? This is an “immortal cell line” that is used in medical research today. The original cell lines were taken from a black mother of 5, Henrietta Lacks, who died of cervical cancer in 1951. Back then there was no informed consent that gave a patient information or control that their cells were being used or a say in how they were used. It wasn’t until the 1970s the Lacks discovered their relative’s cells were being used, and since then attempts have been made to help the Lacks family have credit in its control and use.

        For example, HeLa cells were used in developing the polio vaccine by Dr. Jonas Salk.

        For more, see this Wikipedia entry or read “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot, from 2010. It’s a fascinating read.

      6. Just for the sake of discussion, would it be immoral to use the organs of a murder victim to save the life of one who needs them to live? I think it could be argued that it would be immoral not to use them.

        Is it wrong for us to enjoy the benefits of living in America, when so many of the original inhabitants were defrauded, displaced, and even killed to make room for European immigrants? I can feel guilty about what happened, but it doesn’t accomplish anything good or help those who suffered in any way.

        I’m all for people following their conscious. But please do so fully informed. The abortion link to the current vaccines is pretty distant. As I understand it, the industry standard for testing the vaccines derive from a copy of a copy of a copy (keep going thousands of times) of a cell from a single fetus aborted (uncoerced) almost 50 years ago, somewhere in Europe. That’s it. I understand that any link to abortion, no matter how distant, may feel problematic for some. But at least understand, no one is being aborted to make/ research this vaccine.

  8. Don’t know what’s worse; these anti-covid-Vax people or Christians who are so fearfully overcome with Covid-drama, they’re afraid to die. You know who you are, still not worshiping in-person and/or wearing a mask when driving alone in your car.

    1. Pastor Bob,

      If you are indeed a pastor, I trust that your tone to those of us who wear masks will become more pastoral. Do you know why I sometimes wear a mask when I drive? If I go through a drive through for coffee or a burger, I won’t get service due to local ordinances. I’d rather have it on than try to fiddle with it while driving. Where I live, you can’t shop, work or go to school (or church) without a mask.

      For those still worshiping online, there are so many valid medical reasons. I just started back to in person because the local cases are fewer and more things are opening up. I have a couple potentially serious medical issues and my doctor advised me to stay home. My relationship with God is still strong and vibrant due to excellent online pastoral care.

      I get around with a rolling walker and wear glasses. Would you be upset with me because I use those? I just find that you seem to offend at everything and, if I were to visit your church, I would be off to find another very quickly with some of the comments I have read here.

  9. You do realize that if you get COVID and are reasonably healthy, there is a 99% chance you’ll recover.

    That’s why I’m not getting the shot.

    Since I’m healthy, I see getting the shot as just a way to avoid the symptoms … and not having any real effect on survival rate.

    I choose not to do that, and not because I’m afraid of the shot. But, I’m not afraid of going through the natural healing process, either.

    If COVID had a 75% survival rate in healthy people, I would most likely the shot.

    But, that’s not the case at all.

    I don’t get the normal flu shot every year, and see no reason to get this shot, either.

    If I get the flu, I’ll get sick, and there is a 99% chance I’ll recover.

    I DO wear a mask. But, not by choice. I do it because I am to submit to those in authority unless it violates scripture.

    My governor has instituted a mask mandate. This is not a violation of scripture. So, I wear the stupid mask even though I believe the studies show it is pointless to do so.

  10. Hi Jeff, can I gently encourage you to reconsider getting the vaccine?

    First of all you are correct most healthy people do recover but what isn’t published is the number of people who have had strokes, neurological issues, heart issues and other effects of having Covid. My wife for instance ( were both nurses) got Covid last year and has had headaches and recently GI issues. This is a 62 year old Woman who was in perfect health ( doesn’t even wear glasses) . Her GI doctor is putting her into a study as he is seeing post Covid patients starting to come into his office 12-14 months out.

    2 Do it for others who may not be able o get the vaccine for medical reasons, you could be an a symptomatic carrier putting them at risk

    3. If we can get enough people vaccinated we can develop the herd immunity necessary to return a little more toward normalcy.


    1. As long as we’re encouraging people and not “guilting” them. :)

      I have no problem with the vaccine personally. If you feel led to get it (like VickiBlue) or not (like Jeff G) I believe it’s fine. God can help us make the right decision about it, by thinking about the information presented, our own individual circumstances, and prayer.

      I know people who have gotten vaccinated and thankfully have felt no ill effects.

      The real issue is when people are using trying to use vaccines as a tool for fear or control. There’s a real issue there. It is a big difference between “you have a choice” and “I will coerce you to control you”.

    2. Hi Chuck, I’m sorry to hear of your wife’s continuing problems. I find it rather astounding though that the effects of the virus that you have listed have not been published. From my point of view, we have been told ad nauseum by the media and all the experts for over year now of every one of the horrific effects of this virus until it’s a wonder any of us have set foot out the door.

      Just a few responses to your points. Point 2 – It’s my understanding that everyone, whether fully vaccinated or not, is a potential (asymptomatic) carrier. Those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from being carriers. So those those who are not vaccinated are not putting anyone else more at risk by refusing the vaccine. Point 3 – until recently WHO’s definition of herd immunity was when enough people got the disease. Suddenly lo and behold, now they are saying it is when “enough” people get the vaccine. Changing their stance of the past 70 or so years.

      It’s a difficult decision for so many as we weigh everything. May God protect us all in every way, whatever we decide.

      1. Leah. There is already ample evidence that being vaccinated significantly reduces chances of catching covid. A recent study in the UK has shown that residents of care homes who have being vaccinated have at least 68% protection from being infected, and that the infection rate among those who have been unable to be vaccinated is significantly lower because of that. Getting vaccinated does most certainly help protect those around you who cannot be vaccinated for health or other reasons.

        Also, your comment about the changing definition of herd immunity is incorrect. Specifically scientists, infectious disease experts, and public officials have been talking about the vital importance of enough children being vaccinated against measles to ensure herd immunity and prevent dangerous outbreaks off the virus from occurring for decades.

        Given how few children catch measles these days, the term herd immunity absolutely includes those who have gained their immunity from vaccinations, and has done for many years. The source of people’s immunity is irrelevant, it’s the fact that they are immune that’s important.

  11. I was grateful for the vaccine. I have several high risk issues. One of them is: others not getting the shot & infecting me. My probability of death is high under that scenario.

  12. While I think Graham’s politics in recent years have been shameful, credit to him for going with evidence rather than the misinformation pushed by loonies like Q-anon and Eric Metaxas.
    Some great resources answering questions about the vaccine from evangelical Curtis Chang and others are here:
    One can also find various interviews with Dr. Francis Collins, a great scientist and great ambassador for Jesus in this area.

  13. I see a lot of posts that refer to fetal cell lines. Can somebody please clarify that for me? Do fetal cell lines actually come from aborted babies or from some other source like a baby who was still alive and the cells are extracted in a manner that does not harm the baby in any way? Very confusing. If you answer my post please include credible sources. Thank you.

    1. Vickie Skelley

      Yea they do. Atleast J&J I heard but vaccines started from them and I heard the dr who was behind it proudly explain it . Most of the folks on this site have swallowed the koolaid about the injections mRNA gene therapy and are ignorant up facts just following the road to destruction. Go to Children’s Health Defense. You may get your answers but from what I learned some due. Also check out “the professors record” with Prof David Clements. He has many scientist doctors exposing what this very deadly injection is in graphic detail. It’s not a vaccine but a genetic code put in your cells that replicates the genetic made spuje protein over and over. Astoundingly hideous! You become a virtual COVID-19 protein manufacturer in your cells. Wicked!!! You eventually die or get autoimmune disease says Dr. Sherri Tenpenny world wide known expert on vaccine harms. Also some believe saline’s are given to many. Why? That way not too many die at once creating more “vaccine hesitancy”. Go to VAERS to see deaths, disabled, emergency room visits , hospitalizations from this injection. It’s undercounted and behind but those behind this depopulation don’t want you to go there. It’s time folks woke up and stopped labeling those trying to save lives as conspiracy theorists. This is no theory! Truth! Wake up sleepers! Gullible sheeple!

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