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Mass. House approves plan to require the COVID-19 vaccine for all representatives and staff

"Requiring vaccinations for everyone in the House is a necessary first step toward reopening."

Demonstrators gathered outside the Massachusetts State House in Boston to protest COVID-19 vaccination and mask mandates. JOSEPH PREZIOSO / AFP via Getty Images, File

The Massachusetts State House is taking some steps toward reopening, after being closed to the public for 18 months amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

And it starts with requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for all members and staff.

The Democrat-controlled House voted 131-28 on Thursday to require COVID-19 vaccinations for all representatives, officers, and employees in order to physically work in the State House, as part of a larger four-phase reopening plan, despite grumblings from some Republicans.

“Vaccines work,” House Speaker Ron Mariano tweeted Friday morning after the vote.

“They are the most effective way to reduce transmission and prevent severe illness and death,” Mariano wrote. “As public servants, we should be leading by example — and getting as many people as possible vaccinated. Requiring vaccinations for everyone in the House is a necessary first step toward reopening.”

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The state Senate adopted similar rules last month, following recommendations from its own reopening working group.

Under the House plan, all members, officers, and staff will be required to show proof of vaccination to the House Human Resources department by Nov. 1. The Senate is requiring verification by Oct. 15.

“Those who do not or cannot provide proof of vaccination, for whatever reason, will be required to continue working remotely,” the House plan says.

As the State House News Service reported Thursday, all but one Republican state representative — Rep. Sheila Harrington, of Groton, who voted in favor — voted against the rules, voicing opposition to the vaccine mandate and criticizing the reopening plan for lacking details.

“How will we handle those who refuse to get vaccinated? How will it be enforced?” Rep. Bradley Jones, the House minority leader, asked Thursday.

Asked about those who don’t comply, Mariano told reporters earlier this week they would “evaluate those circumstances when they occur.”

While a number of the Republicans expressing opposition to the rules have been themselves vaccinated, Mariano said that others have refused to disclose whether they’ve gotten the shots, without naming names.

According to the State House News Service, a new House working group will now begin work on further details.

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Released earlier this week, the previous working group also recommended extending the State House’s mask requirement and virtual option for public hearings.

The four-phase plan would gradually open the State House to members, staff, lobbyist, and general members of the public; however, a full reopening date has yet to be set.

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