Mass. Hospitals, Medical School Announce Vaccine Requirements

The Beth Israel Lahey Health system and the University of Massachusetts Medical School announced this week that employees would be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19

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Two of the state's largest hospital systems and the University of Massachusetts Medical School announced this week they will be requiring their workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Beth Israel Lahey Health said Tuesday all clinicians and staff in the hospital system must be vaccinated against coronavirus, as well as the flu, by Oct. 31. By Oct. 15, all current employees of Mass General Brigham must be fully vaccinated against coronavirus, workers were told Tuesday. Both health care systems called the requirement "a condition of employment."

New hires to the Mass General Brigham system, which includes Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital, will need to be vaccinated beginning Sept. 13.

Wednesday, the University of Massachusetts Medical School also said faculty and staff would need to submit proof of vaccination by Sept. 7. Students at UMass Medical School had already been required to receive the vaccine, the university said.

"This step reflects our highest priority, which is to protect the health and safety of our campus and broader communities," the school said in a statement. "The decision follows months of thoughtful deliberation and monitoring of the pandemic; evaluation of data, including infection trends; and, more recently, the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant."

If employees do not submit proof of at least one vaccine dose by Sept. 7, their access to the UMass Medical School campus will be restricted and they "may be subject to employer actions up to and including termination," the school said.

New York is the first major U.S. city to require proof of vaccination for certain indoor activities. The TEN looks at the logistics and ethics of vaccine mandates.

The university added that even vaccinated people must follow coronavirus protocols on campus, "including wearing a mask while indoors, participating in surveillance testing if you are on campus one or more days per week and following guidance on hygiene, isolation and quarantine."

UMass Medical School and Beth Israel Lahey Health said medical and religious exemptions would be considered, with the university noting that documentation must be provided. Mass General Brigham said employees seeking such exemptions would be required to submit a request form by Sept. 3.

With New York City mandating proof of vaccination status for all indoor dining and gyms; while Boston has not made a citywide rule, individual businesses are instituting similar policies.

Beth Israel Lahey Health said its Oct. 31 deadline stands "regardless of FDA authorization status."

"We now find ourselves at the edge of another surge in COVID cases with the growing threat of the delta variant," Kevin Tabb, president and CEO of Beth Israel Lahey Health said in a video message. "We can either prolong this pandemic by giving in and giving up to our exhaustion and our frustration, or we can commit to doing everything we can to fight it. We can't give in, and we can't give up. And our profound responsibility to our patients and to each other – our moral responsibility, really – must drive the actions we take as an organization."

"Although the new delta variant is more contagious than others, available COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective at preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19," Anne Klibanski, president and CEO of Mass General Brigham, said in a letter to employees Tuesday.

The highly-transmissible delta variant has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend all people, vaccinated or not, to wear masks indoors in public places in areas considered to be of high or substantial risk — a classification that currently describes almost all of Massachusetts.

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