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Essex County sheriff to require employee vaccinations

November 28, 2021 GMT

MIDDLETON, Mass. (AP) — A Massachusetts sheriff is requiring proof of coronavirus vaccination for all employees, vendors and contractors at the jail his office oversees.

Essex County Sheriff Kevin Coppinger, who oversees the Middleton House of Correction, told The Salem News that he expects the mandate to survive legal challenges. The mandate takes effect Jan 4.

The union representing Essex County correctional officers has already filed a prohibited practice complaint with the state’s Division of Labor Relations, alleging that Coppinger’s order was made unilaterally and that the sheriff failed to bargain in good faith.

Coppinger defended the order, which is modeled after Gov. Charlie Baker’s mandate for state executive branch employees, which has survived court challenges. The sheriff also said he’s consulted with health experts and the attorney general’s office.

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Coppinger said he has responsibility to protect the health and safety of 1,100 prisoners and another 800 or so staff and private contractors. The move comes after a spike in COVID-19 cases at the facility.

As of Tuesday, 72% of jail employees have provided proof of vaccination, he said.

Employees who fail to make a good faith effort to get vaccinated or obtain an exemption by the deadline will face disciplinary proceedings, he said.