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Massachusetts Sets Vaccine Mandate For Long-Term Care Staff

The Holyoke Soldiers' Home.
Creative Commons
The Holyoke Soldiers' Home.

Massachusetts long-term care workers will be required to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 10, under a new mandate the Baker administration rolled out Wednesday.

The Executive Office of Health and Human Services announced that skilled nursing facilities and the two state-run soldiers' homes must ensure that all personnel, including those employed directly or by contract, are fully vaccinated against the highly infectious virus to help protect older residents.

Massachusetts has 378 level one to level three skilled nursing facilities and two soldiers' homes, who serve older adults more vulnerable to COVID-19, that will be covered by the mandate. The administration said Wednesday that 155 of those facilities had less than 75% of their staff fully vaccinated as of Monday.

Workers who are not yet vaccinated must receive a first dose by Sept. 1 and be fully vaccinated by Oct. 10 to comply with the new requirement, outlined in a public health order and forthcoming emergency regulations. Anyone with medical restrictions or with sincerely held religious beliefs that prevents them from receiving vaccines will be exempt from the mandate.

Gov. Charlie Baker has resisted calls to impose vaccine mandates more broadly on state employees, saying instead he prefers to focus on expanding access to and communicating the effectiveness of vaccines.

The U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs imposed a vaccine mandate for its workforce, which serves a large number of older adults, and state government in both New York and California have also required staff to get immunized against COVID-19.

In Massachusetts, the state auditor and treasurer's office will require employees to show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing when they return to in-person work.

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