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Screenshot of Pope Francis in video about Covid-19 vaccinationScreenshot from public service announcement video promoting Covid-19 vaccination

VATICAN CITY (AP) — 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.

The "It's Up To You" campaign has been inviting "trusted messengers" to deliver "fact-based and life-saving information to populations hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccines, helping them to make informed decisions for themselves and their families," it said in a joint news release with the Ad Council.

Lisa Sherman, president and CEO of the Ad Council, said, "The role of trusted messengers to educate and inspire their networks is undeniable."

"We are extremely grateful to (Pope Francis) and the cardinals and archbishops for lending their voices and platforms to help people across the globe feel more confident in the vaccines," particularly to the world's 1.3 billion Catholics, she said in the news release.

It said 72% of the adult population and 67% of Hispanic adults have currently been vaccinated against COVID-19 with at least one dose in the United States.

But COVID-19 cases are on the rise worldwide, especially in North, Central and South America. Some nations are still showing very low rates of individuals who are fully vaccinated, such as Honduras with only 5.5% of the adult population and El Salvador with 30%.

While access to vaccines is a challenge, "confidence in the vaccines also presents a hurdle," the news release said.

In his message, the pope said, "Thanks to God and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from COVID-19. They grant us the hope of ending the pandemic, but only if they are available to all and if we work together."

Getting inoculated "is an act of love" for oneself, family, friends and all people, he said.

"Love is also social and political" as these individual "small gestures of personal charity" add up, "overflowing" into something universal that is "capable of transforming and improving societies," he said.

"Vaccination is a simple but profound way of promoting the common good and caring for each other, especially the most vulnerable," the pope said.

"I pray to God that everyone may contribute their own small grain of sand, their own small gesture of love; no matter how small, love is always great. Contribute with these small gestures for a better future. God bless you, and thank you," he said.

Also offering messages encouraging vaccination were: Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes of Mexico; Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, retired archbishop of São Paulo; Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chávez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, El Salvador; and Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte of Trujillo, Peru.

The campaign encouraged people to go to GetVaccineAnswers.org and DeTiDepende.org for more information and answers to questions about the COVID-19 vaccines.

This story has been updated with reporting from Catholic News Service.

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