The Office of Papal Charities has purchased enough doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to offer inoculations in Rome to 1,200 of "the poorest and most marginalized people who, because of their situation, are the most exposed" to the coronavirus.

The office, run by Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, said in a statement March 26 that the first doses would be administered during Holy Week in the atrium of the Vatican audience hall, which is where Vatican employees have been receiving the Pfizer shots since mid-January.

Cardinal Krajewski's office also encouraged people to buy a vaccine for "our poorest and most vulnerable brothers and sisters" by making a donation online at, the address of the papal almoner's office, which distributes charity in the name of the pope.

Soon after Pope Francis and retired Pope Benedict XVI received their first Pfizer shots in mid-January, Pope Francis asked the Vatican health service to not only vaccinate Vatican residents and employees, but also the poor who live in three homeless shelters nearby. Fifty residents were vaccinated, the almoner's office said.

The Vatican also vaccinated journalists who traveled with Pope Francis to Iraq in early March and has been offering the vaccine to ambassadors accredited to the Holy See. As of March 26, the Vatican had not said how many people total had been vaccinated there.

Pope Francis has repeatedly encouraged people to get vaccinated to protect their health, the health of their loved ones and the health of their neighbors. He also repeatedly has called for global efforts to ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine, rather than policies that amount to wealthier countries buying up most of the available shots and reserving them for their own citizens.

The Holy Week vaccination program at the Vatican will be staffed by the physicians and other health workers who serve at the "Madre di Misericordia" mobile health clinic for the poor in St. Peter's Square, employees of the Vatican health service and volunteers from Rome's Lazzaro Spallanzani Hospital and an Italian organization of medical professionals who offer free care to the poor.