Pope Francis declares support for COVID vaccinations amid global outbreak – The Organization for World Peace

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This week, the pope reiterated one of his strongest statements on vaccinations, urging individuals to get vaccinated because it is a “moral obligation.” Previously referring to vaccines as an “act of love”, the pope denounced rhetoric discouraging vaccination as “baseless information”.

The pope’s pro-vaccine sentiments come at a pressing time when COVID-19 cases around the world have soared. The sentiments were expressed by the pope’s address to ambassadors to the Holy See, a conference where the Vatican sets foreign policy goals for the year. On average, 2.7 million cases occur worldwide every day, and the distribution of the highly transmissible variant of Omicron has increased infection and caused the closure of businesses and schools. Many universities across the United States have shifted to virtual learning, pushing back in-person learning by two weeks. Worries about U.S. vaccination rates are heightened by Biden’s recent effort to establish a national commercial vaccine and testing mandate, which was blocked this week by the Supreme Court. In a conversation with CNN, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called the decision “disappointing”, saying “We must continue to do everything we can to invest, not just in vaccines and boosters… but also to expand the offer of therapeutics… to expand the offer of tests, to make masks more accessible to the public.

As health officials push for improved public health legislation, the pope’s support for COVID-19 vaccination campaigns illustrates the evolution and nuanced culture of vaccination. Vaccine hesitancy and distrust of public health campaigns have been significant issues during the pandemic, with some branches of distrust in the United States stemming from religious circles. Many Catholics refused the vaccine on the grounds that vaccine research stemmed from cells of aborted fetuses. National research conducted in 2021 by the Public Religion Research Institute found that religious affiliation can correlate with vaccine hesitancy, acceptance and refusal. Their survey found that white evangelical Protestants were the most likely to refuse the vaccine, with 56% saying they were vaccinated or would consider getting it. Other white Christian groups were more tolerant, with 74% of mainline white Protestants and 79% of white Catholics consider themselves to be vaccine accepting, according to the PRRI survey.

While about 62% of Americans are vaccinated, according to NPR, frustration is mounting with those choosing not to get vaccinated. Two-thirds of Americans polled believe unvaccinated people put the general public at risk, with frustrations specifically targeting those demanding religious exemptions. The pope’s pro-vaccination statement highlights the greater role religious leaders play in ensuring public health. Communities listen and often adhere deeply to the preaching of their respective religious leaders. In a world already grappling with millions of deaths and endemic infection and entering its third year of the pandemic, the Pope’s support illustrates the key role of our religious institutions and leaders and the new vaccine culture that has taken hold in our world.

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