Healthcare & Pharmaceuticals

Pope urges COVID inoculations, says vaccines are humanity's friends

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ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Pope Francis said on Wednesday he was puzzled why so many people, including some cardinals in Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, have refused to get inoculated against COVID-19.

"It is a bit strange because humanity has a history of friendship with vaccines," he said aboard the plane returning from Slovakia, responding to a question from a reporter about the reasons for vaccine hesitancy.

"As children (we were vaccinated) for measles, polio. All the children were vaccinated and no one said anything," he said.

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Francis, who has been vaccinated against COVID, has often urged others to get inoculated for the common good.

On the plane, he said perhaps some people were afraid at first because there were various vaccines available and some turned out to be "little more than distilled water".

He did not name any vaccines.

Pope Francis speaks to the media on board an Alitalia aircraft enroute from Bratislava's Milan Rastislav Stefanik International airport in Bratislava, Slovakia, back to Rome, September 15, 2021. Tiziana Fabi/Pool via REUTERS

"Even in the College of Cardinals there are some vaccine negationists," he said. "But one of them, poor thing, has been hospitalised with the virus. These are the ironies of life."

Francis did not mention the names of any cardinals.

Cardinal Raymond Burke, a conservative and a vaccine sceptic, was hospitalised in the United States last month after contracting the virus.

Some conservative anti-vaccine bishops, particularly in the United States, have said Catholics should have the possibility of claiming conscientious objection to the vaccine on religious grounds.

But the pope has made clear in the past that he disagrees, never having mentioned the option.

Last month, he issued an appeal on behalf of the nonprofit U.S. group the Ad Council and the public health coalition COVID Collaborative, saying the vaccine should be taken by everyone.

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Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by David Gregorio

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