About 1,600 state workers miss Massachusetts vaccine deadline, face firing

COVID-19
Massachusetts coronavirus

Massachusetts coronavirus. (Fusion Medical Animation/Unsplash/Clker-Free-Vector-Images/Pixabay)

BOSTON (AP) — Nearly 1,600 Massachusetts state employees had not proved they are vaccinated against the coronavirus or had sought a vaccine exemption by Sunday’s deadline, the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker announced Monday.

The Republican governor said in August that a total of 44,000 executive branch workers and contractors would be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine or face suspension and ultimately the loss of their jobs. The mandate does not include an option for regular testing for people who do not want to get inoculated.

“The Baker-Polito administration is encouraged that over 95% of active employees in the executive branch have completed the required attestation form or applied for an exemption and are compliant with Gov. Baker’s executive order,” the administration said in a statement. “In the coming days, the administration will work with a small number of employees, not in compliance, and implement progressive discipline if necessary.”

The government does not expect to experience any staffing shortages, the statement said. The administration did not say in which departments the unvaccinated employees worked, but the unions representing state police troopers and state prison guards had both challenged the mandate in court. Both lost.

The leader of the State Police Association of Massachusetts, which represents about 2,000 troopers, said at a news conference Monday that about 300 members were unvaccinated as of last week. About two-thirds of those had requested an exemption, union President Sgt. Michael Cherven said. The union believes in vaccines but wants the opportunity to negotiate terms of the requirement, he said. He warned of severe staffing shortages within an already understaffed state police department.

The Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union, which represents about 4,000 prison workers, also lost its court battle. According to a letter filed by the union’s attorney in court, about 40% of union members were unvaccinated as of last week.

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