Vatican Backtracks on Vaccine Directive After Backlash

February 19, 2021 Updated: February 19, 2021

The Vatican on Feb. 18 backtracked on a decree signed earlier this month that threatened termination for any employee in the city-state who refused to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, following widespread condemnation against the policy. 

Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, the governor of the Vatican on Feb. 8 signed the directive that said employees who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP virus, without providing valid medical resigning for doing so, could be punished by “the interruption of the relationship of employment.”

The decree justified the measures by emphasizing the importance of protecting Vatican employees in the workplace, and guidelines issued by Pope Francis, who received the first shot of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine last month following the rollout of the state’s vaccination program.

The pope has advocated that everyone should get the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus vaccine.

“It is an ethical choice because you are gambling with your health, with your life, but you are also gambling with the lives of others,” he said last month.

The 84-year-old’s COVID-19 advisory commission suggests that people have a moral responsibility to get the vaccine “given that refusing a vaccine can constitute a risk for others.”

Many Italians expressed concerns over the measure that threatens job stability, with some saying it went against the pope’s general call for mercy.

Changing course, Bertello’s office released a statement late Thursday, saying that “alternative solutions” would be found for those who do not wish to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

It said the reference to the article in a 2011 law on employee rights and duties which specifically mentioned the possibility of dismissal should not be seen as “sanctioning or punitive” and that “freedom of individual choice” would be respected. 

The Vatican—the world’s smallest state at 108 acres—operates independently of Italian law and labor protections. It has several thousand employees, most of whom live in Italy. Vaccines are not mandatory in Italy.

Vatican City has had under 30 confirmed cases of the CCP virus, including a cluster among the Swiss Guard last fall.