Boston City Council

Michelle Wu seeks to provide sick time to city employees to recover from COVID vaccine side effects

"We should make it possible to accommodate and mitigate the burden of these side effects, however possible."

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Boston city employees would be granted paid sick time to recover from side effects they may experience after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine under an ordinance introduced to the City Council on Wednesday.

The proposal, sponsored by City Councilor and mayoral candidate Michelle Wu, would provide three paid sick days to be taken anytime within the first two days after an employee has received a vaccine dose. Workers would receive full pay for those days.

The ordinance also authorizes the city’s director of human resources to issue policies related to the paid sick leave benefits, according to the filing.

Wu told councilors by taking up the proposal, officials can be transparent about the vaccine and help build trust — which, in pockets of the city, especially communities of color, is lacking, a city-run survey in December showed.

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According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, common side effects of the vaccines include fever, chills, tiredness, and headache, as well as pain and swelling on the arm where the patient received the shot.

“These are normal side effects, and will usually go away after just a few days,” Wu said. “But in the short term, the risk of these side effects and the impact may make it harder to fulfill daily responsibilities.”

She added: “Given the long history of medical disenfranchisement in communities of color — Black, Latinx, and other residents of color — we, from the city level, should be modeling what we are encouraging other employers and other parts of the community to do. We should make it possible to accommodate and mitigate the burden of these side effects, however possible.”

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City Councilor Ed Flynn, signing on to support Wu’s measure, highlighted the need for officials to make sure immigrant residents, who speak various languages, receive reliable information and “a positive message about vaccinations.”

“One of the aspects of this issue is we have to make sure we provide as much medical information to our immigrant neighbors as we possibly can, encouraging them to take the vaccine,” he said.

The proposed ordinance was assigned to the Committee on Government Operations for review.

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