Mass. Public Health Council Approves Expanded COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements

Gov. Charlie Baker's proposed vaccination requirement was approved by the state's Public Health Council Wednesday

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The state's public health council approved a mandate Wednesday morning to require all staff at rest homes, assisted living residences, hospice programs, as well as home care workers providing in-home direct care services, to get vaccinated against the coronavirus by Oct. 31.

Gov. Charlie Baker's administration announced the proposed vaccination requirement on Sept. 1 and said it is part of its continued effort to protect older adults from the virus.

The plan -- which expands on an announcement by Baker’s administration last month that workers at skilled nursing facilities are required to get vaccinated -- required approval from the Public Health Council. The council voted unanimously to approve it shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday.

The requirement will be implemented through the respective Department of Public Health and Executive Office of Elder Affairs regulations that covers 62 free standing rest homes and 268 assisted living residences, 85 hospice programs and up to 100,000 home care workers in Massachusetts. It also applies to contractors who work in such facilities.

The head of the Massachusetts Assisted Living Association has said it would give peace of mind.

“We applaud this decision to protect everyone in Massachusetts assisted living communities — staff, residents, and their families. While most assisted living staff are vaccinated, this will further reinforce the safe and healthy environment that high rates of vaccination and robust infection control policies have helped us achieve,” organization President and CEO Brian Doherty said in a statement after the Baker administration's announcement.

All employees at Massachusetts rest homes, assisted living residences, and hospice programs, as well as workers who provide in-home direct care services, are required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by Oct. 31, according to a new plan announced Wednesday.

But the United Health Care Workers Union has said workers should be allowed to make an informed decision about the vaccine and pledged to work with Baker to improve vaccination rates.

Exemptions will be granted for people with a medical condition that prevents them from receiving a vaccination or with a sincerely held religious belief.

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