A moment is at hand.

Science, research, data and medical methodology are all front and center as Americans weigh their options around the COVID-19 vaccine. But there is another quiet, yet profound undercurrent flowing through society as we await our turn for a chance to receive the vaccine: faith.

At Novant Health, dozens of team members who’ve shared the story of their decision to receive the vaccine said they prayed long and hard about getting the shots as worries about how fast the vaccines were approved niggled in the back of their mind.

They may work in hospitals and medical clinics filled with the latest equipment and staffed by highly trained providers, but relying on prayer, or simply taking a leap of faith, was the deciding factor for many who received the vaccine. And a Pew Research Center survey found that 55% of Americans say they are praying for an end to the spread of the virus.

Priest vax tight shot
Dr. David Priest

Dr. David Priest, Novant Health’s chief safety, quality and epidemiology officer, is a man of faith. At a forum for Novant Health team members recently, he said some patients will tell him they are putting their fate into the Lord’s hands. Priest honors that conviction. God sends things to protect us, he notes, like the vaccine. He told the forum audience that faith and science can exist in what he calls “wonderful harmony.”

In that spirit, Novant Health is teaming with African American churches in Charlotte and Winston-Salem to answer questions at community forums, then offer the vaccine at houses of worship.

‘OK God, I’m going.’

There are many stories of Novant Health team members and patients turning to God for faith, hope and guidance. This is one of them.

Sharon Stitt mug
Sharon Stitt

Sharon Stitt is a nurse practitioner at Novant Health Lakeside Family Physicians - Langtree in Mooresville. She cannot hide her Brooklyn, New York, accent, not that she wants to, and she surely does not keep her Christian faith under wraps.

Stitt had her doubts about the vaccine. She was unfamiliar with the science behind it. It appeared quickly on the market. She wondered who was making money off it. Anything that had the government’s hands all over it raised questions in her mind. She is familiar with the disgraceful history of medical care that afflicted African American communities. “I knew about Tuskegee,” she said, referring to the Tuskegee experiment in Alabama. From 1932 to 1972, the U.S. government withheld treatment from a group of Black sharecroppers to study the progression of syphilis. They were never informed of their diagnosis and were told they were getting free health care.

Stitt knew we had to do something about COVID-19. Was this vaccine the way to go? She prayed for an answer. Then she said God put a string of pearls in front of her. The first pearl was a call from a former patient who told her he was excited that as an essential worker she would be one of the first to be eligible for the vaccine.

The second pearl – a tragic one – was losing a good friend to the virus. The third pearl was hearing African American physician Dr. Chris Pernell of Newark, New Jersey, on a national radio show, endorsing the vaccine and sharing that she was part of the Moderna clinical trial. “OK,” Stitt said to herself, “I trust her.”

The final pearl?

Stitt awakened on Sunday, Dec. 20, grabbed her phone and checked for messages. It was 8:15 a.m. when she read the email telling her she could receive the vaccine that day. “OK God,” she told herself, “I’m going.”

Later that day, as she waited at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center for the first vaccine, Stitt offered a silent prayer of thanksgiving. “I said, ‘Thank you. Here I am standing in line, among the first.’”

On Jan. 4, she received the second vaccine.

Faith and science, in wonderful harmony.

A Pew Research Center survey found that 55% of Americans say they are praying for an end to the spread of the virus. Amid the rollout of the vaccine, Rabbi Naomi Levy of Los Angeles has shared this prayer for people of all faiths.

I have been praying for this day and now it is here!

With great excitement, a touch of trepidation

And with deep gratitude

I give thanks

To all the scientists who toiled day and night

So that I might receive this tiny vaccination

That will protect me and all souls around this world.

With the pandemic still raging

I am blessed to do my part to defeat it.

Let this be the beginning of a new day,

A new time of hope, of joy, of freedom

And most of all, of health.

I thank you, God, for blessing me with life

For sustaining my life.

And for enabling me to reach this awe-filled moment.


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