VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Vatican has told employees that they may risk losing their jobs if they refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 without legitimate health reasons.
A decree by Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, effectively the governor of Vatican City, said that getting vaccinated was “the responsible choice” because of the risk of harming other people.
Vatican City, at 108 acres, the smallest state in the world, has several thousand employees, most of whom live in Italy. His vaccination program began last month and Pope Francis, 84, was one of the first to receive the vaccine.
The seven-page decree says that those who cannot get vaccinated for health reasons can receive another position, presumably where they would have contact with fewer people, but will receive the same pay even if the new position is a demotion.
But the decree said that those who refuse to get vaccinated without sufficient reason will be subject to a specific provision in a 2011 law on employee rights and duties.
The article in the 2011 law says that employees who refuse “preventive measures” could be subjected to “varying degrees of consequences that could lead to dismissal.”
The decree was signed on February 8 and was later posted on the governor’s department website.
Pope Francis is a huge supporter of vaccines to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“It is an ethical choice because you are playing with your health, with your life, but you are also playing with the lives of others,” he said in an interview with an Italian television station last month.
The Vatican has made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for journalists accompanying Pope Francis on his trip to Iraq next month.
Bertello, who signed the decree, tested positive for coronavirus in December and went into self-isolation.
There have been fewer than 30 coronavirus cases in Vatican City, most of them among the Swiss Guard, who live in a communal barracks.
Report by Philip Pullella; Edited by Gareth Jones