The Rev. Franklin Graham is warning Christians that if they wait too long to get a COVID-19 vaccine, "it could be too late."
"I want people to know that COVID-19 can kill you," Graham, the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse, told interviewer Mike Allen for "Axios on HBO." "But we have a vaccine out there that could possibly save your life. And if you wait, it could be too late.”
The interview will run in full on HBO this coming Sunday. Allen said that the evangelist also discussed his recent visit with former President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago, President Joe Biden, and other topics.
Graham's comments come among reports indicating that white evangelical Christians are among one of the largest groups of people who resist getting a COVID vaccination.
In a Pew Research Center poll earlier this year, about 45% of white evangelicals said they would not get a COVID shot, meaning they were among the least likely groups to be vaccinated.
Graham also spoke out on Facebook on Friday following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcement lifting mask guidelines for most cases.
"No masks? This is great news!" he said. "Yesterday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that fully vaccinated people in the United States no longer need to wear masks or social distance in most cases, whether indoors or outdoors. This is a significant step forward. As we are grateful for this milestone, let’s remember to pray (for) all of those here and around the world still battling the coronavirus. In India, over 4,000 people are dying every day from COVID-19 and other countries like Brazil and Mexico are suffering greatly. How do you feel about not having to wear a mask?"
Graham has faced criticism for his comments about vaccinations after saying on social media in March that both he and his wife had gotten their vaccines and that he believed Jesus would have also supported people getting their shots.
The evangelist, basing those Facebook comments on the parable of the Good Samaritan, said he concluded that Jesus would have backed people getting all types of vaccines.
"Did Jesus need a vaccine Himself?” Graham asked. "Of course not. He is God.”
Graham said at the time that some of his family and staff had contracted COVID-19 and "spent weeks on a ventilator and months hospitalized as a result."
"Vaccines have worked for polio, smallpox, measles, the flu, and so many other deadly illnesses — why not for this virus?” Graham said in his post last month. "My wife and I have both had the vaccine; and at 68 years old, I want to get as many more miles out of these old bones as possible!”
Some of Graham's followers were not supportive. One woman accused him, after the Facebook post of "leading your sheep to slaughter."
Another called him a "Satanic sell out" and others criticized him for using his role as a pastor to convince people to get a shot.
Graham's stance on COVID has even caused some controversy since the earliest days of the pandemic. Last April, after Samaritan's Purse opened a field hospital in New York City's Central Park, a requirement that workers at the location sign a pledge saying that they are Christians and opposed gay marriage created some backlash.
Graham said New York officials were harassing his organization and that it had never discriminated against patients. However, he argued that Samaritan's Purse had a right to hire staff that shared its Christian beliefs because it was a religious charity.
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