LONDON (Reuters) - The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, received a COVID-19 vaccine and urged people across the world to accept the jab, saying that getting vaccinated was part of the Christian commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves.
The leader of the Anglican Communion, which includes 85 million people in about 165 countries, tweeted a picture of himself receiving the shot and described the rapid development of vaccines against the new coronavirus as an answer to prayer.
"Jesus Christ calls us to love our neighbour as ourselves. Getting the vaccine is part of that commandment: we can show our love for each other by keeping each other safe from this terrible disease," he said in a statement.
"To everyone in this country and across the world, I want to say please, please accept the invitation to get the jab when it comes -- and encourage everyone around you to do the same."
Welby, 65, received the vaccine as part of the priority group of frontline healthcare workers, because he volunteers at St Thomas' Hospital, across the road from his London residence at Lambeth Palace, as part of the hospital's chaplaincy team.
He said that healthcare workers in Britain's National Health Service and across the world were under immense pressure on the front lines of the pandemic, and getting the vaccine was something people could do to help relieve the burden on them.
Reluctance by a proportion of the population to get vaccinated is seen by public health experts as a major problem, and the archbishop was one of a number of public figures in Britain who have sought to persuade people to accept the jab.
Queen Elizabeth, 94, and her husband Prince Philip, 99, both received their vaccinations on Jan. 9. They made no comment, but the decision by Buckingham Palace to make the news public was widely seen as a way to emphasise the safety and importance of vaccination.
(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by William James)