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Gov. Baker: All long-term care workers must be vaccinated

August 4, 2021 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday that his administration will begin mandating that staff working in long-term care facilities receive COVID-19 vaccines as a way to help protect some of the state’s most vulnerable residents against the disease.

There are currently 378 skilled nursing facilities — as well as two soldiers’ homes — operating in Massachusetts. As of Aug. 2, 155 of the facilities reported having fewer than 75% of their staff fully vaccinated, according to the administration.

Under the mandate, all the facilities will be required to make sure that all personnel are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

That includes all individuals employed directly or by contract by the long-term care provider.

All unvaccinated personnel must receive a first dose of a two-dose series by Sept. 1 and be fully vaccinated by Oct. 10. Beginning Oct. 10, the state Department of Public Health will begin enforcing the mandate.

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The requirement will provide exemptions for those with medical restrictions or sincerely held religious beliefs that prevent them from receiving vaccination.

COVID-19 vaccination is the most effective method for preventing infection and serious illness from the virus, and staff at long-term care facilities and other health care providers serving vulnerable populations are critical in efforts to protect older residents, the administration said in written statement.

The advocacy group Massachusetts Senior Care Association welcomed the mandate.

While Massachusetts nursing facilities have one of the highest rate of staff COVID-19 vaccination in the country, the goal is to reach universal vaccination to protect residents and staff, Tara Gregorio, the association’s president, said in a written statement.

“The governor’s new state COVID-19 staff vaccination mandate for nursing home staff will save lives, especially since many workers move between jobs frequently or hold two jobs in different health care settings, and it aligns with public health goals to achieve herd immunity,” Gregorio said.