Pope Francis says people who get the coronavirus vaccine would be committing “an act of love” towards their fellow men and women.
The pontiff made the personal appeal in a filmed public service message that was released Wednesday online and on television.
“Thanks to God’s grace and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from Covid-19,” Pope Francis said in the message, which he made on behalf of the U.S.-based nonprofit group the Ad Council. He said the vaccines “bring hope to end the pandemic, but only if they are available to all and if we collaborate with one another.”
The pontiff added that getting vaccinated “is a simple yet profound way to care for one another, especially the most vulnerable.”
Church officials in North and South America also appeared in the three-minute message, including Archbishop José Horacio Gómez of the United States, Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes of Mexico and Cardinal Carlos Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed Wednesday that a 58-year-old man who became the first to test positive for COVID-19 since February was infected with the highly contagious delta variant. The news was announced on the first day of a strict three-day nationwide lockdown imposed by Ardern. Auckland, the country’s largest city, and the coastal town of Coromandel, where the infected man also visited, will be shut down for a full week.
New Zealand has been praised for imposing a strict lockdown in the early days of the pandemic that has led to just 2,937 confirmed infections and just 26 deaths among its five million citizens. But only about 20% of all New Zealanders have been fully vaccinated, the lowest rate among all 38-member nations of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD.
Ten people have now tested positive in this new outbreak, according to the New Zealand Herald, and Ardern warned that the numbers would continue to grow. She said genomic testing has linked the outbreak to the one that began in Australia’s New South Wales state and its capital, Sydney, which was first detected back in June.
New South Wales posted a new single-day record of 633 confirmed new COVID-19 infections Wednesday, breaking the previous record of 478 cases posted just on Monday. Three deaths were also confirmed Wednesday, bringing the total number of COVID-19 fatalities in this new outbreak to 60.
Like New Zealand, Australia had boasted of success in containing the spread of COVID-19 in the initial months of the pandemic, with just 40,774 total infections and 970 deaths, but with only 20% of its citizens fully vaccinated due to a sluggish vaccination campaign, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.