Sunday Is COVID Vaccine Mandate Deadline for Mass. Employees. Suspensions Could Begin

State employees may face termination if they refuse to comply with the vaccine mandate

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Sunday is the deadline for thousands of Massachusetts employees to submit proof of COVID-19 vaccination or face possible termination by their state employer.

The mandate order, issued in August by Gov. Charlie Baker, requires that any person who works for a Commonwealth Executive Department Agency, including full-time, part-time, seasonal, intermittent, temporary, post retiree and contract employees, and interns are required to get the vaccine. The mandate also extends to individuals who telework for any state agencies, according to the state website.

While a majority of state employees have complied with the order, there are some that have resigned in light of the mandate.

The union that represents Massachusetts State Police tells NBC10 Boston that while about 85-90% of its members have rolled up their sleeves to get the shot, the resignations have already begun for those who haven't.

Sunday is the deadline for thousands of Massachusetts employees to submit proof of COVID-19 vaccination or face possible termination by their state employer.

The State Police Association of Massachusetts says at least 150, if not more, have either resigned or submitted their paperwork intending to do so because of the state's vaccine mandate that Gov. Charlie Baker issued back in August.

The union says state police are already critically short staffed, and those who don't comply will face a disciplinary process before any terminations would begin.

The state says more than 40,000 executive department employees -- about 91% of the workforce the mandate applies to -- have either submitted their forms attesting to their vaccination status or applied for an exemption.

The state's website says those who don't get the shot and aren't exempt will face suspension without pay and then risk being fired.

"I think that it's irresponsible to hold out on that," said Cole Vandiver, who thinks the disciplinary actions are justified. "I think if people are not willing to do their part to protect everyone else along with themselves, they should be able to be reprimanded for that."

Massachusetts State Police said medical and religious exemptions to Baker’s vaccine mandate have not been decided despite Sunday’s deadline to be fully vaccinated or have an approved religious or medical exemption.

State Police Association of Massachusetts union member Luke Bonin told NBC10 Boston in an exclusive interview Sunday that his job is on the line because of his beliefs.

“To say that I’m not willing to risk anything for the sake of my job would not align with my faith, it would not align with my morals and my honor,” he said.

The 40-year-old has not been vaccinated against COVID-19.

"As a Christian I believe that it is irreconcilable with my faith to take anything into my body that is the product in any way of abortion,” he argued.

Bonin is referring to stem cell lines -- cells grown in a lab based on aborted fetuses collected in the 1970s and 1980s.

All three COVID vaccines available in the US – Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – do not contain stem cells. However, as Bonin argues, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were tested using stem cell lines, while the J&J vaccine used stem cell lines in its development.

"We don't want police officers in this country who are willing to give up their morals, and their ethics, and their ideals, to obey an order,” added Bonin.

The Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran filed a religious exemption claim on Sept. 10 to Baker’s vaccine mandate set to go in effect on Monday – that claim is still not decided.

In August, Baker warned roughly 42,000 executive branch state employees if they don’t get their COVID-19 shot or their exemptions approved by the Oct. 17 deadline, they will face disciplinary action, even termination.

“It’s a safety issue to assume that it’s ok and appropriate for public officials, who deal with the public every single day, not to be vaccinated,” Baker said during a Mass Bay Center for Health Sciences groundbreaking in Framingham in September.

The state police union was denied an injunction on Sept. 23. They complained of not being given enough time to address all their concerns with the mandate. They have been requesting alternatives to the vaccine, such as weekly testing and masking like other police agencies at the local and federal levels.

The MSP has confirmed one trooper resignation on Sept. 24 citing the mandate.

It’s unclear when a decision will be made on exemptions or what criteria is being used to determine exemptions. Multiple requests to the Governor’s Office for information on these questions have gone unanswered.

MSP said it will ensure services continue uninterrupted in the event more troopers decide to leave their job.

Officials tell us beginning Monday that managers will start contacting those who haven't filled out the forms attesting to the vaccine to find out why.

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