The Vatican has moved to clarify what was dubbed as a “no jab, no job” policy in relation to the Covid-19 vaccination , after a chorus of criticism on social media.
The decree was described as “Holy orders” and the Vatican “getting tough” with those opposed to the coronavirus vaccinations, and was interpreted as meaning that workers who refused the jab could be dismissed from employment. The Vatican has several thousand employees.
On February 8th, Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, the governor of Vatican City, decreed that getting the Covid-19 vaccine was a “responsible choice” because of health risks to other people, and said those who could not take the jab for health reasons might be moved to another position of employment. He clarified that anyone thus impacted would receive the same pay even if the new post was a demotion.
However, the decree came under fire when it was indicated that those who refused a vaccination without a legitimate health reason might find themselves subject to a provision in a 2011 law which warned that employees who refuse “preventive measures” could face consequences including dismissal.
This led to criticism on social media, with some commentators claiming the prescriptive nature of the decree was contrary to Pope Francis’ usual emphasis on mercy.
Yesterday, Cardinal Bertello’s office moved to clarify the decree, saying that there would be “no punishment” for those who did not want to get the vaccine. The office denied that the decree was meant to be “sanctioning or punitive” and said that “freedom of individual choice” was important and would be respected.
The Vatican City State Governorate said the directive “seeks to strike a balance between protecting the community and an individual’s freedom of choice.”
It said the decree “was issued to provide an urgent regulatory response to the primary need to safeguard and guarantee the health and well-being of employees, citizens, and residents of Vatican City State. The presupposition, therefore, is that of protecting the individual worker and the working environment, in the case of an event that could set off a public health emergency.”
The Vatican statement did reiterate that certain jobs may require vaccination.
“Among these measures indicated by the State Health Authority, it may be deemed necessary to resort to vaccination for certain contexts: in work activities related to public service, relations with third parties, or those which pose risks for the safety of other employees. Voluntary adherence to a vaccination program must, therefore, take into account the risk that any refusal of the person concerned may pose a risk to him or herself, others, and the working environment,” it said.
For this reason, reads the statement, “community protection may require—for those who refuse vaccination in the absence of health reasons—measures that both minimize the danger for the individual and allow for alternative work solutions for the interested party.”
The statement said the intent was “to protect community, not to punish”.