Pope-Francis-vaccine Pope Francis just received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine
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“Vaccines for everybody, especially for the most vulnerable and needy,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis is joining the ranks of high-profile and elderly individuals who’ve gotten the COVID-19 vaccine. The Vatican confirmed that both Pope Francis and former Pope Benedict got their first dose of the COVID vaccine

“I can confirm that as part of the vaccination program of the Vatican City State, as of today, the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine has been administered to Pope Francis and to the Pope Emeritus,” said Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office, according to Vatican News

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Pope Francis has been advocating the COVID vaccine for months, saying the most vulnerable communities should be a priority for the vaccination. During his Christmas Day sermon in Rome, Pope Francis said the COVID vaccine should be made available to everyone. However, the neediest should come first. 

“Vaccines for everybody, especially for the most vulnerable and needy,” Pope Francis said. He went on to say that vaccines are a “light of hope.”

“We can’t let closed nationalisms impede us from living as the true human family that we are,” the Pope said.

As of Jan. 14, The New York Times reports that Italy has 2.3 million cases and 80,326 deaths. Italy began the inoculation process in late December by providing the vaccine to healthcare workers first. Since then, more than half a million people have already received the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Euro News.

Although the COVID-19 vaccine is here, cases continue to surge worldwide. Health Minister Roberto Speranza said yesterday that Italy would continue their COVID restrictions until April.

“In the past week there has been a generalized worsening of the epidemic, we are back to an expansionary phase,” Speranza told the lower house of parliament, according to Reuters. “With indicators worsening…the government sees it appropriate to extend the state of emergency to April 30.”

During the Dec. 25 service, Pope Francis spoke about the pandemic, how America has been more severely affected by COVID-19, and violence in Latin America. 

“At this moment in history, marked by the ecological crisis and grave economic and social imbalances only worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, it is all the more important for us to acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters,” Francis said. 

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Fraternity and compassion apply to people “even though they do not belong to my family, my ethnic group, or my religion,” he said. Francis prayed that the birth of Jesus would inspire people to be “generous, supportive, and helpful” to those in need, including those struggling with “the economic effects of the pandemic and women who have suffered domestic violence during these months of lockdown.” Noting that the “American continent” was particularly hard-hit by COVID-19, he said that the pandemic compounded suffering, “often aggravated by the consequences of corruption and drug trafficking.” In particular, he cited the suffering of the Venezuelan people.

Watch the full Christmas service below.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.