Vatican mandates COVID vaccine for employees

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A man receives the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in the atrium of the Paul VI hall at the Vatican in this January 20, 2021, file photo. A variety of sanctions have been issued by the head of the commission governing Vatican City State for citizens, residents and personnel who fail to follow current COVID-19 measures. The sanctions cover employees who refuse vaccination. [CNS photo/Vatican Media]

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY, (Catholic News Service) – As a last resort, the Vatican may sanction employees who refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine for non-medical reasons, according to a new Vatican decree.

A variety of sanctions for anyone violating measures intended to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus were included in a decree signed Feb. 8 and later posted on the Vatican website by the head of the commission governing Vatican City State.

While the protocols apply to everyone at the Vatican, the harshest sanctions are reserved for Vatican employees whose contractual obligations include on-the-job health and safety regulations.

Because of the current state of emergency, getting the COVID-19 vaccine is part of a series of mandatory health and safety requirements for all employees, unless they have “proven health reasons” to not be inoculated; in legitimate cases, those employees will be given a different job that reduces their risk of spreading or contracting the virus, the decree said. They will receive the same pay.

For employees who lack a proven medical reason for forgoing the vaccine, a refusal to be inoculated during the current health emergency exposes them to the same range of potential sanctions that come with refusing any of the other mandatory health exams and safety measures that are part of their terms of employment. The harshest sanction, according to labor regulations issued in 2011, is a termination of employment.

However, in a follow-up note issued later February 18 by the city-state governing office, the 2011 norms are not meant to be seen as a set of sanctions or “punitive,” but as “allowing for a flexible and proportioned response that balances safeguarding the health of the community and the freedom of individual choice without creating any form of repression for the worker.”

It is always possible, the note said, to adopt measures that safeguard the community by minimizing the danger posed by someone who refuses to get a vaccine for non-medical reasons and finding “alternative solutions” for the worker in question to carry out their job.

The decree was signed by the head of the commission governing Vatican City State, Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, who tested positive for COVID-19 in December, and Bishop Fernando Vergez Alzaga, secretary-general of the office.

Read more here.

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