Three of the largest hospital systems in Massachusetts have announced that they will require their workers to get Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccinations.
The three hospital systems in question are Mass General Brigham, Beth Israel Lahey Health (BILH) and Wellforce. Between these three hospital systems, they control over two dozen hospitals and even more clinics, community and emergency health centers and other healthcare facilities. All three hospital systems are headquartered in Boston, but have facilities all over Massachusetts.
Vaccine mandates will be enforced after FDA authorization
On Thursday, June 24, Mass General Brigham told its more than 80,000 employees that it will be requiring all of them to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The company added that more than 85 percent of its workers are already fully vaccinated.
“Over the past 16 months we have come together as a system to care for our patients and each other as never before and the efforts of our employees have been extraordinary and inspiring. The evidence of COVID-19 vaccine safety and effectiveness is overwhelming,” said CEO Dr. Anne Klibanski in a press release. “Getting vaccinated is the single most important and responsible step each of us can take to put an end to this devastating pandemic and protect patients, families and each other.”
Klibanski claimed her company’s decision was made based on research, data and trends. She will enforce the company’s vaccine mandate once the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) gives full approval to one of the three vaccines in the U.S. that have already been granted emergency use authorization.
BILH announced its vaccine mandate a day earlier on Wednesday, June 23. CEO Dr. Kevin Tabb said his workers must set an example for their patients by getting vaccinated. He said this “condition of employment” will help them protect each other and make certain they do not infect patients.
“I think it would be very hard for any of us, either individually or collectively as an organization, to live with ourselves knowing that we have potentially caused harm or death if we can avoid it,” said Tabb.
Like Mass General Brigham, BILH will only start enforcing its vaccine mandate on its 35,000 employees once one of the vaccines receives final FDA approval.
Wellforce, which has over 13,000 employees, is also waiting for full FDA approval before it enacts its vaccine mandate. The company anticipates this to happen later this year. The company also claims that “evidence continues to grow each and every day of the effectiveness and safety of the COVID-19 vaccines.”
Healthcare union plans to oppose vaccine mandates in hospitals
The vaccine mandates in Massachusetts are not being implemented without opposition. 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest healthcare union in the country, has pledged to fight mandatory vaccine requirements for workers.
The union, which is based in New York, represents over 70,000 healthcare workers in Massachusetts.
George Gresham, president of 1199SEIU, came to this decision after Houston Methodist announced that 153 employees had been fired or resigned for refusing to get vaccinated. He is weighing the union’s possible legal options. (Related: Over 100 Houston Methodist Hospital employees sue over COVID vaccine “mandate.”)
“Whether there is a legal challenge that we can make, or whether it’s just a pure organizational challenge that we can make, we are not going to give in,” said Gresham.
The 1199SEIU president said he has been vaccinated against COVID-19. But he argues that healthcare workers “have the right to make their decision about their own health.”
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