Pope Francis Says Getting COVID Vaccine Shows 'Respect for the Health of Those Around Us'

Pope Francis on Monday said that getting the COVID-19 vaccine was a "moral obligation" and denounced those who try to influence people not to get it.

During a speech to Holy See ambassadors during an annual event when he sets out Vatican foreign policy, Francis called for people to get vaccinated and lamented how people have been swayed by "baseless information" to refuse one of the most effective measures to save lives.

"And this translates into respect for the health of those around us. Health care is a moral obligation," said Francis, who has been fully vaccinated with Pfizer-BioNTech shots.

"Vaccines are not a magical means of healing, yet surely they represent, in addition to other treatments that need to be developed, the most reasonable solution for the prevention of the disease."

Francis, who has termed receiving the vaccination "an act of love" and refusal "suicidal," lamented that ideological divides were discouraging people from getting vaccinated.

"Frequently people let themselves be influenced by the ideology of the moment, often bolstered by baseless information or poorly documented facts," he said, calling for the adoption of a "reality therapy" to correct this distortion of human reason.

Francis spoke to reporters in September while on a plane to Italy from Slovakia. Recognizing some vaccine debates increase fear and uncertainty, he said, "we should clarify things and speak calmly." He said they were "studying how to help" those who were hesitant about receiving the vaccine.

Francis also said he was puzzled why the vaccine was refused by so many.

"It is a bit strange because humanity has a history of friendship with vaccines," he told a Reuters reporter who asked about vaccine hesitancy. "As children, [we are vaccinated] for measles, polio. All children were vaccinated, and no one said anything."

In August, Francis issued an appeal on behalf of the nonprofit U.S. group The Ad Council and the public coalition COVID Collaborative, saying the vaccine should be taken by everyone.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis on Monday said that getting the COVID-19 vaccine was a "moral obligation" and denounced those who try to influence people not to get it. Above, Francis attends a Mass on the Solemnity of the Epiphany at St. Peter's Basilica on January 6, 2022, in Vatican City, Vatican. Alessia Giuliani via Vatican Pool/Getty Images

Some Catholics, including some conservative U.S. bishops and cardinals, have claimed vaccines based on research that used cells derived from aborted fetuses were immoral, and have refused to get the jabs.

The Vatican's doctrine office, however, has said it is "morally acceptable" for Catholics to receive COVID-19 vaccines based on research that used cells derived from aborted fetuses.

Francis repeated his call for universal access to the shots, particularly in the parts of the world with low vaccination rates and called for revisions to patent rules so that poorer countries can develop their own vaccines.

"It is appropriate that institutions such as the World Trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization adapt their legal instruments lest monopolistic rules constitute further obstacles to production and to an organized and consistent access to health care on a global level," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.