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Pope Francis urges COVID-19 vaccinations for everyone

The Vatican has vowed an all-out effort to overcome vaccine hesitancy and encourage widespread vaccination around the world.

Pope Francis is adding his voice to a campaign to overcome vaccine skepticism, issuing a public service announcement insisting that vaccines are safe, effective and an “act of love.”

The video message released Wednesday is aimed at a global audience but directed particularly at the Americas. It features six cardinals and archbishops from North, Central and South America as well as the Argentine-born pope. It was produced by the Vatican and the Ad Council, which has produced a series of pro-vaccine ads in a bid to get more people vaccinated.

In his comments, Francis said: “Being vaccinated with vaccines authorized by the competent authorities is an act of love. And contributing to ensure the majority of people are vaccinated is an act of love.”

He added: “Vaccination is a simple but profound way of promoting the common good and caring for each other, especially the most vulnerable.”

Francis had emphasized at the start of the pandemic the need to ensure equal access to the vaccine, especially for the poor. But faced with increasing skepticism about vaccines especially among religious conservatives, the Vatican has vowed an all-out effort to overcome hesitancy and encourage widespread vaccination.

The Vatican has declared that it is morally acceptable for Catholics to receive COVID-19 vaccines, including those based on research that used cells derived from aborted fetuses.

Meanwhile, U.S. health officials are recommending all Americans get COVID-19 booster shots.

The plan, as outlined by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other top health authorities, calls for booster doses eight months after people get their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

The booster doses could begin the week of Sept. 20.

Health officials say people who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine also probably need extra shots because some effectiveness of vaccines wanes over time. But they say they’re awaiting more data and have yet to work out the details.

The overall plan awaits a Food and Drug Administration evaluation of the safety and effectiveness of a third dose, the officials say.