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Vaccine Hesitancy as Lived Experience among Members of a Christian Community in the Philippines

ARC Team 02
2023-07-15 21:16 270

Vaccine Hesitancy as Lived Experience among Members of a Christian Community in the Philippines  

 Religion and Social Communication 21, no. 1 (2023)

Renalyn G. Padogino and Benjamina Paula G. Flor



Vaccine hesitancy in a Christian community like the Jesus Christ the Eternal Savior International Ministries (JESIM) remained relevant in today’s efforts to rise above the COVID-19 pandemic. The study uncovered how vaccine hesitant JESIM members construe COVID-19 vaccination in Sinayawan Valencia City, Bukidnon, Philippines. It also explored how their meanings define their hesitancy towards vaccination. This study employed purposeful sampling and conducted in-depth interviews using the conversational, storytelling approach. The saturation point was attained after interviewing 11 participants. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed through initial, axial, and selective coding. Two major themes emerged in the analysis: vaccination is a threat to health and the pandemic is God’s call for repentance. These COVID-19 meanings led people to seek God’s will on the circumstance through prayer, a dialogic form of communication between God and the JESIM members. Their communication resulted in three response actions such as strengthened their faith, trust in God’s will, and practice proper stewardship that informed their decision to refuse COVID-19 vaccination. The lived experience purports that God has responded to them with signs and wonders, including miraculous healing and divine interventions. As all of them had already contracted and survived the COVID-19 virus, they perceived that God allowed them to experience it to demonstrate that He is the greatest of all and that He is capable of healing them in hopeless situations.  

Keywords: JESIM, COVID-19 pandemic, prayer warriors, belief in God 


1.  Introduction    

In the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) initiated a whole-of-society approach to launch the COVID-19 vaccine deployment and vaccination program. The government spearheaded the deployment and execution of the program, forging partnerships with the private sector and organizations like the Roman Catholic Church. Communication campaigns, including the #ChecktheFAQs: A Campaign to Fight Vaccine Misinformation were launched to counter misinformation about COVID-19 vaccination using various platforms. Hence, constant surveillance of the vaccination program was implemented in the country (DOH 2021). However, in Sinayawan, Valencia City, some households remained hesitant towards COVID-19 vaccinations despite campaigns based on the report of the health center. Most households were affiliated with a Christian group called Jesus Christ the Eternal Savior International Ministries (JESIM) where one of the researchers is connected. It is a type of Pentecostal religious organization registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. JESIM is committed to journey with people through a discipleship process where members are exposed and trained with various spiritual practices anchored on biblical teachings that aim to advance the kingdom of God. In the whole system of discipleship, select members who are willing were chosen to become a part of the primary leaders. These leaders represent the demographics of the organization. These include leaders from adult men and women, married young adult men and women, young men and women, and leaders for kids. These leaders meet once a week for fellowships and meetings, and they assist the senior pastors in decision-making. The leadership style applied in this organization is participatory. Hence, the study sought to find out the reasons by understanding vaccine hesitancy as lived experience through phenomenology.  

The phenomenological tradition in communication theory posits that communication is the experience of oneself and others through dialogue. Within this tradition, the concept of dialogue is understood as a means of explicating the communicative process as it takes place within experience (Pilotta and Mickunas 1990). People share authentic information drawn from experience through an unmediated dialogue. The meaning people make depends on their subjective interpretation of their experiences (Mumby 1989). As humans create meaning with their experiences, they engage in transactional communication where they use signs and symbols to interpret their field of experiences (Adler, Rodman and DuPré 2012).  

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