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CHARLESTON, W.V. (WOWK) — As the lead pastor of the Bible Center Church, Matt Friend is an inspiration to many. He was reluctant to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and that led to some hard lessons he hopes to help others avoid.

“I always had an excuse, really because I don’t like shots. And it just seemed like an inconvenience. I’m not going to get it … I’m young,” said Friend.

That mentality quickly changed after coming down with the virus this winter and having some dangerous side effects.

“I realized how serious it was. I called my parents right away and said you guys have to get this right away and I’m going to get it as soon as I’m allowed because what I went through that week, I wouldn’t wish on anybody,” said Pastor Friend.

Friend received his vaccine days ago and is now using his platform to encourage others to do so as well. To assist in the vaccination process, he is holding vaccine clinics at the church.

“I encourage everyone to ask your doctor first. The second thing I encourage our congregation to do is to pray about it, just pray about it. And then the thing I encourage folks to do is to just respect one another’s decisions,” said Friend.

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to 12- to 15-year-olds. Pending the approval from the CDC on Wednesday, those 12 years and older could be vaccinated in a matter of days.

As a father of children in this age group, Friend advocates families to sit down and talk about it.

“We just felt like the pros outweighed the cons. So we encouraged Katie to get it. And Riley is 15 and we will encourage her to get it as soon as she is allowed,” he said.