Staff at long-term care facilities will be required to get COVID-19 vaccine
As of Aug. 2, the statement said, 155 of these facilities had less than 75 percent of their staff fully vaccinated.
“Today’s actions reinforce the state’s commitment to ensuring the safety and care for these residents, some of our most vulnerable residents,” the statement said.
Baker’s decision applies to “all individuals employed directly or by contract” to long-term care facilities. Unvaccinated workers must get at least one dose by Sept. 1, and be fully vaccinated by Oct. 10, Baker’s office said.
The state Department of Public Health will enforce the requirement, which includes exemptions for workers with medical restrictions or “sincerely held” religious beliefs that bar them from getting vaccinated, the statement said.
The issue of vaccinating staff at nursing homes has long been on the radar of public health specialists.
The failure of many nursing home staff members to get vaccinated has emerged as one of the most serious gaps in the United States’ defenses against COVID.
Fully one-quarter of the nation’s pandemic deaths had occurred in nursing homes as of June. Yet more than 40 percent of staff members were still unvaccinated at that time, leaving the homes’ frail, elderly residents vulnerable.
Only about 57 percent of nursing home employees nationwide were fully vaccinated as of late June, federal data showed at the time.
Nursing home administrators across the country have resorted to dangling gift cards, cash, T-shirts, and more, but such incentives have largely failed at convincing holdouts, the Globe chronicled in June.
In Massachusetts, vaccine mandates have primarily been rolled out by private sector employers in two sectors: health care and higher education.
In June, four hospital systems — including the two largest, Mass General Brigham and Beth Israel Lahey Health — announced they are requiring their 135,000 employees get vaccinated once the FDA fully authorizes a COVID vaccine, though they’ll allow exemptions on medical or religious grounds.
Baker has previously been reluctant to issue state mandates.
In a March interview, the governor he wouldn’t rule out a state vaccination mandate at a later time. But he expressed little enthusiasm for it, saying he would prefer to “nudge” reluctant residents to get shots. He also said a mandate would require a new law.
“And several people on my team have questioned the constitutionality of it,” Baker said in March, later adding: “I think the biggest opportunity here is to get people to do it because they want to to protect themselves and their friends and their families. And I think that strategy, in the end, will bear fruit based on everything we see.”