RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A Virginia Commonwealth University study showed that evangelical Christians were strongly influenced by their faith leaders when it came to getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

The VCU professor who conducted the survey found that pastors’ influence on congregants to not seek out the COVID-19 vaccine during the height of the pandemic was strong.

“Evangelical Christians are among the most hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine,” Jeanine Guidry, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture in the College of Humanities and Sciences, and director of the Media+Health Lab, said in a statement. “[We found] that contact with health care providers and clergy for this particular population absolutely do matter, and they seem to matter in opposite directions.”

Guidry, who conducted the survey with a colleague at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, also found that evangelical Christians who spoke to a health care provider about the COVID-19 vaccine were more likely to get a shot.

The academics wanted to understand vaccine beliefs and barriers for people who identified as evangelical, and for this information to be useful in the future. Guidry said she thinks this information can be applied to save lives when it comes to encouraging people to get other life-saving vaccines.

The researchers said evangelicals are classified as vaccine hesitant, and there were varied attitudes about vaccines depending on the age, family status and whether the respondents lived in an urban or rural setting.