COVID

Massachusetts expands COVID-19 vaccine requirement to more workers caring for the elderly

Those subject to the new mandate have until Oct. 31 to get vaccinated.

Elise Amendola
Gov. Charlie Baker. Elise Amendola / AP

After announcing plans to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for skilled nursing home staff in Massachusetts last month, Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration is expanding the requirement to a range of workers who interact with the state’s oldest and most vulnerable residents.

The Baker administration announced Wednesday that the state will require all staff at rest homes, assisted living residences, and hospice programs, as well as an estimated 100,000 home care workers, to get the COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 31.

If and when the plan is approved by the state’s Public Health Council, the mandate — implemented through state regulations — would cover 62 freestanding rest homes, 268 assisted living residences, and 85 hospice programs in Massachusetts, in addition to the thousands of home care workers.

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The requirement would also apply to contractors who regularly enter rest homes, assisted living residences, and hospice programs, in addition to direct employees.

For home care workers, the mandate applies to individuals providing in-home, direct care who are employed by an agency that is contracted or subcontracted with the commonwealth, as well as independent, non-agency-based home care workers.

The planned mandate does have exemptions for individuals with medical conditions that prevent them from getting the vaccine or objections to vaccination based on sincerely held religious beliefs.

Baker’s office, which will also require the COVID-19 vaccine for tens of thousands of state government workers and contractors, says the expanded mandate Wednesday is part of the administration’s effort to protect older adults against COVID-19.

While the vaccines are overwhelmingly effective at preventing severe illness due to COVID-19, Massachusetts has seen an increase in breakthrough cases amid the rise of the delta variant, including hospitalizations and deaths among those who were vaccinated. State officials have said the majority of vaccinated COVID-19 patients had some underlying conditions and the median age of those who died was nearly 82.

State officials first announced a vaccine mandate for skilled nursing home staff in early August. At the time, 155 of the state’s 378 skilled nursing facilities had less than 75 percent of their staff fully vaccinated.

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