ROME — The Vatican is taking Pope Francis’ pro-vaccine stance very seriously: Any Vatican employee who refuses to get a coronavirus shot without valid medical reason risks being fired.
A Feb. 8 decree signed by the governor of the Vatican City State sparked heated debate Thursday, since its provisions go well beyond the generally voluntary nature of COVID-19 vaccinations in Italy and much of the rest of the world.
The decree cited the need to protect Vatican employees in the workplace, as well as guidelines issued by Francis’ own COVID-19 commission of advisers who said there was a moral responsibility to vaccinate yourself “given that refusing a vaccine can constitute a risk for others.”
The decree says that Vatican employees who opt out without a proven medical need risk sanctions up to and including “the interruption of the relationship of employment.” The Vatican is an absolute monarchy in the heart of Rome that operates independently of Italian law and Italian labor protections.
The Vatican, which has around 5,000 employees, is on its way to becoming perhaps the first country to complete its adult vaccination campaign, after the Holy See’s health service began inoculating staff and their families in early January with Pfizer shots. Francis himself has received his second dose.