SEKE, Zimbabwe — The Apostolic church is one of Zimbabwe’s most skeptical groups when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines. It is also one of the southern African nation’s largest religious denominations.
But many of these Christian churches, which combine traditional beliefs with a Pentecostal doctrine, preach against modern medicine and demand followers seek healing or protection against disease through spiritual means like prayer and the use of holy water.
Some secluded Apostolic groups believe vaccines are linked to Satanism. To combat that, authorities have formed teams of campaigners who are also churchgoers to dispel misconceptions about the vaccines in their own churches.
Vaccine activist Yvonne Binda stands in front of a church congregation, all in pristine white robes, and tells them not to believe what they’ve heard about COVID-19 vaccines.
“The vaccine is not linked to Satanism,” she says. The congregants are unmoved. But when Binda, a member of an Apostolic church herself, promises them soap, buckets and masks, there are enthusiastic shouts of “Amen!”
While slow and steady might be best in dealing with some religious hesitancy, the situation is urgent in Africa, which has the world’s lowest vaccination rates. Zimbabwe has fully vaccinated 15% of its population, much better than many other African nations but still way behind the United States and Europe.