Pope Francis and Benedict XVI Receive First Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine

Pope Francis greets Pope emeritus Benedict XVI at the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae Monastery on Nov. 28, 2020. Credit: Vatican Media.

Pope Francis and Pope emeritus Benedict XVI have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Vatican confirmed on Thursday.

Responding to questions from reporters on Jan. 14, Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office, said: “I can confirm that as part of the Vatican City State vaccination program to date, the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine has been administered to Pope Francis and the pope emeritus.”

The two men are expected to receive the second dose in about three weeks.

Benedict XVI’s personal secretary said on Tuesday that the 93-year-old pope emeritus would receive the coronavirus vaccine as soon as it was ready.

Archbishop Georg Gänswein told CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, on Jan. 12 that Benedict XVI would be vaccinated “as soon as the vaccine is available.”

“I will also be vaccinated along with the whole household of the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery,” said Gänswein, referring to the Vatican monastery where Benedict XVI has lived since resigning as pope in 2013.

The Vatican began administering vaccinations against COVID-19 on Jan. 13. 

Vatican residents and employees and their families are receiving their doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine in the atrium of the Paul VI Audience Hall. 

Vatican City State, the world’s smallest independent nation-state, has a population of around 800 people. But together with the Holy See, the sovereign entity that predates it, it employs more than 4,000 people.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, a total of 27 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Vatican City State. Among them were at least 11 members of the Swiss Guard. 

Dr. Andrea Arcangeli, head of the Vatican health service, said on Jan. 2 that the Vatican had purchased a low-temperature refrigerator to store the vaccine.

“Priority will be given to health and public safety personnel, to the elderly and to personnel most frequently in contact with the public,” he said.

In a television interview broadcast on Sunday, Pope Francis said that he had booked an appointment to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“I believe that, ethically, everyone has to get the vaccine. It is an ethical option because it concerns your life but also that of others,” he commented.

Recalling the introduction of the polio vaccine and other common childhood immunizations, he said: “I don’t understand why some say this could be a dangerous vaccine. If doctors present it to you as something that can be fine and has no special dangers, why not take it?”

The 84-year-old Pope Francis is generally healthy, though he suffers from sciatica and had eye surgery for cataracts in 2019. When he was young, he had a portion of a lung removed because of an infection.

At his traditional Christmas “Urbi et Orbi” blessing, the pope called for COVID-19 vaccines to be made available to the world’s neediest people.

He said: “I ask everyone -- government leaders, businesses, international organizations -- to foster cooperation and not competition, and to seek a solution for everyone: vaccines for all, especially for the most vulnerable and needy of all regions of the planet. Before all others: the most vulnerable and needy!”


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