Pope Francis is celebrating solemn Holy Week ceremonies for a second straight year without the usual throngs of pilgrims and tourists, kept away by pandemic safety concerns and travel restrictions.
Francis traditionally leads a Palm Sunday procession through St. Peter's Square and then celebrates an outdoor Mass for tens of thousands of faithful.
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But Francis led a Palm Sunday service this year inside St Peter's Basilica just as he did last spring. That was just weeks after the COVID-19 outbreak erupted in Italy, which was the first country in the West to be hit by the pandemic. Only about 120 faithful, including nuns and a few families, attended and were socially-distanced.
They wore protective masks as did participants in the procession of 30 red-robed cardinals, but Francis was maskless.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.