Coronavirus: Massachusetts mandating vaccinations for all staff at long-term care facilities

BOSTON — Staff members working in long-term care facilities across Massachusetts will be required to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October in an effort to “strengthen infection control and protect vulnerable residents” as the highly transmissible delta variant continues to drive up infection rates nationwide, according to the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and WFXT.

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The mandate will apply to employees at the state’s 378 skilled nursing facilities as well as two Soldier’s Homes, officials said. Staff members will be required to get their first vaccine dose no later than Sept. 1, and to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 10.

As of Monday, less than 75% of the staff members at 155 of Massachusetts’ skilled nursing facilities had been fully vaccinated, according to EOHHS.

In a statement released Wednesday, officials emphasized that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 “is the most effective method for preventing infection and serious illness from the virus, and staff at long-term care facilities and other health care providers serving vulnerable populations are critical in efforts to protect older residents.”

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As of Tuesday, the last date for which data was available, about 63% of Massachusetts residents have been vaccinated, according to the state health department. Nationwide, about 50% of all Americans have been fully vaccinated, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.

Research has also shown that fully vaccinated people can spread the delta variant, which accounts for more than 80% of all COVID-19 cases reported nationwide; however, officials have noted that vaccination protects well against severe and life-threatening symptoms of the viral infection.

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Other municipalities, states and the federal government have announced similar vaccine mandates aimed at encouraging skeptics to get their shots. In California and New York, state employees will be required to get vaccinated or face regular COVID-19 testing. In New York City, municipal employees are also being required to get vaccinated. A similar measure in Denver also includes workers in settings and occupations deemed high risk.

Since the start of the pandemic, 35.2 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, resulting in more than 614,000 deaths, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Over 199.8 million people worldwide have gotten COVID-19, causing 4.2 million deaths, according to the university.