ROME — Pope Francis said he would be vaccinated against the coronavirus as early as next week, calling it a lifesaving, ethical obligation and the refusal to do so suicidal, according to remarks made to an Italian television news program.
He also said the storming of the United States Capitol astonished him and should be condemned.
In an interview with the newscast TG5 that is expected to air Sunday evening, Francis called on everyone to get the vaccine. A transcript of the pope’s vaccination remarks, which were not immediately confirmed by the Vatican, was provided by Fabio Luca Marchese Ragona, the TG5 Vatican reporter who conducted the interview.
“It’s an ethical choice, because you are playing with health, life, but you are also playing with the lives of others,” Francis told the station. “I’ve signed up. One must do it.”
According to the transcript, the pope added, “I don’t understand why some say, ‘No, vaccines are dangerous.’ If it is presented by doctors as a thing that can go well, that has no special dangers, why not take it? There is a suicidal denial that I wouldn’t know how to explain.”
Francis has sometimes come under criticism for not wearing a mask during the pandemic, and some have expressed concern that world leaders and other attendees at papal audiences could be putting him, or themselves, in danger.
The Vatican has insisted that social distancing measures and testing are employed to maintain safety, though some prelates, including cardinals, have tested positive for the virus within days of interacting with Francis.
The virus has forced Francis, who is energized by travel, to stay home during much of the past year, and the Vatican has had to cancel or severely limit even its most important celebrations. By presiding over ceremonies before a vast, empty St. Peter’s Square, the pope has underlined not only the way the virus has changed people’s daily lives, but also the life of the church.
While the exact order of vaccine recipients may vary by state, most will likely put medical workers and residents of long-term care facilities first. If you want to understand how this decision is getting made, this article will help.
Life will return to normal only when society as a whole gains enough protection against the coronavirus. Once countries authorize a vaccine, they’ll only be able to vaccinate a few percent of their citizens at most in the first couple months. The unvaccinated majority will still remain vulnerable to getting infected. A growing number of coronavirus vaccines are showing robust protection against becoming sick. But it’s also possible for people to spread the virus without even knowing they’re infected because they experience only mild symptoms or none at all. Scientists don’t yet know if the vaccines also block the transmission of the coronavirus. So for the time being, even vaccinated people will need to wear masks, avoid indoor crowds, and so on. Once enough people get vaccinated, it will become very difficult for the coronavirus to find vulnerable people to infect. Depending on how quickly we as a society achieve that goal, life might start approaching something like normal by the fall 2021.
Yes, but not forever. The two vaccines that will potentially get authorized this month clearly protect people from getting sick with Covid-19. But the clinical trials that delivered these results were not designed to determine whether vaccinated people could still spread the coronavirus without developing symptoms. That remains a possibility. We know that people who are naturally infected by the coronavirus can spread it while they’re not experiencing any cough or other symptoms. Researchers will be intensely studying this question as the vaccines roll out. In the meantime, even vaccinated people will need to think of themselves as possible spreaders.
The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is delivered as a shot in the arm, like other typical vaccines. The injection won’t be any different from ones you’ve gotten before. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccines, and none of them have reported any serious health problems. But some of them have felt short-lived discomfort, including aches and flu-like symptoms that typically last a day. It’s possible that people may need to plan to take a day off work or school after the second shot. While these experiences aren’t pleasant, they are a good sign: they are the result of your own immune system encountering the vaccine and mounting a potent response that will provide long-lasting immunity.
No. The vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer use a genetic molecule to prime the immune system. That molecule, known as mRNA, is eventually destroyed by the body. The mRNA is packaged in an oily bubble that can fuse to a cell, allowing the molecule to slip in. The cell uses the mRNA to make proteins from the coronavirus, which can stimulate the immune system. At any moment, each of our cells may contain hundreds of thousands of mRNA molecules, which they produce in order to make proteins of their own. Once those proteins are made, our cells then shred the mRNA with special enzymes. The mRNA molecules our cells make can only survive a matter of minutes. The mRNA in vaccines is engineered to withstand the cell’s enzymes a bit longer, so that the cells can make extra virus proteins and prompt a stronger immune response. But the mRNA can only last for a few days at most before they are destroyed.
Footage of some of the pope’s remarks was made public in a clip promoting the interview, including his reaction to the storming on Wednesday of the U.S. Capitol by a mob supporting President Trump.
“I was astonished,” Francis said, “because it is a people so disciplined in democracy, no?” But even in a mature society, he added, there is always “something that isn’t right, something with people who take a path against the community, against democracy, against the common good.”
“This should be condemned, this movement, regardless of the people,” the pope said, clarifying that he meant the violence. “Violence is always like this, no?”
He said that all societies have been afflicted by violence over time and that people should learn from history so the seeds of discontent are understood. “We must understand it well, not to repeat it. To learn from history,” Francis said. “These noncompliant groups not well integrated in society will sooner or later” turn to violence.
In the interview transcript, Francis also reflected on his own experience with vaccines, recalling a polio crisis when he was a child that led to desperation among mothers to find a vaccine.
“We grew up in the shadow of vaccines, for measles, for this and that, vaccines that they gave us as children,” he added.
In his “Urbi et Orbi” message on Christmas Day, Francis called for “vaccines for all,” especially the world’s most vulnerable people.
“Today, at this time of darkness and uncertainty because of the pandemic, there appear different lights of hope,” he said in his Christmas remarks, “such as the discovery of vaccines.”