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Massachusetts Hospitals Move to Mandate Covid-19 Vaccinations

June 24, 2021, 7:37 PM

Boston-area hospitals, including Massachusetts General Brigham, will require most employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19, they announced Thursday.

The hospitals, which also include Beth Israel Lahey and Wellforce, will set deadlines for staff to be vaccinated after at least one of the three Covid-19 vaccines currently cleared under emergency use authorizations receives full approval from the federal Food and Drug Administration, they said in separate announcements.

Employees will be allowed to opt out of Covid-19 vaccination for medical or religious reasons or if they are pregnant or planning to have a baby, Massachusetts General CEO Anne Klibanski said.

The hospitals didn’t yet have timelines and policies in place for carrying out the mandate, they said.

If a Massachusetts General Brigham employee refuses vaccination, the hospital may respond with “corrective action, up to and including termination,” Richard Copp, spokesman for Mass General, said. About 85% of Mass General employees are already vaccinated, he said.

The hospitals’ decisions to mandate vaccines follow the Dec. 16, 2020, guidance released by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission stating that employers wouldn’t be violating federal labor law by making vaccination mandatory.

“Even as we believe in individual rights to make our own decisions, we can’t let those rights outweigh potential that we may give a life-threatening illness to a patient or colleague,” Beth Israel Lahey CEO Kevin Tabb told employees. About 85% of Beth Israel employees have already been vaccinated against Covid-19, Tabb said.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association, a union representing nurses in the state, said it has encouraged its members to get vaccinated and that it is glad that the hospitals will allow exemptions.

The union plans to review details of the hospital vaccination policies once they are released to “ensure the process is safe and respects our members’ rights and health needs,” David Schildmeier, spokesman for the union, said.

About 58% of all Massachusetts residents have been fully vaccinated, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

To contact the reporter on this story: Adrianne Appel in Boston at aappel@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com; Brent Bierman at bbierman@bloomberglaw.com

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