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Healey Will Require Some AG Employees To Be Vaccinated

Mass. Attorney General Maura Healey, right, responds to questions from reporters as U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., left, looks on during a news conference, April 1, 2021, in Boston. (Steven Senne/AP)
Mass. Attorney General Maura Healey, right, responds to questions from reporters as U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., left, looks on during a news conference, April 1, 2021, in Boston. (Steven Senne/AP)

Attorney General Maura Healey's office confirmed Wednesday that she will require some of her staffers to get vaccinated when they return to in-person, public-facing work.

In a wide-ranging discussion with business leaders, she also reiterated her broader stance that some public-sector employees, such as corrections officers and state police, should be required to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

Asked during a question-and-answer session with the New England Council how state officials could enforce such a requirement, Healey said she views the mandate as "common sense" for employees who regularly interact with the public as a function of their jobs, and pointed to other required vaccinations.

"We require flu shots, we require certain vaccinations, we require hep B shots if you work in a hospital," Healey said. "People have suffered so much, and we know — I believe in science and data, I'm listening to the people at the CDC, I'm listening to the public health experts. To me, it's a wartime effort and everybody's got to step in and do their part, and doing your part means getting vaccinated."

In a statement to State  News Service after the Wednesday morning event, Healey spokesperson Emalie Gainey said the attorney general will implement a similar policy in her own office once employees are no longer remote.

"AG Healey believes everyone eligible for a vaccine should get one, and is encouraged by the millions in Massachusetts doing their part at clinics across the state," Gainey said. "Again, it is her personal policy view that vaccines should be required for certain state employees that interact with the public on a daily basis to help prevent the spread of the virus. While her office is still operating on a remote basis, she has encouraged staff to get the vaccine, pending any exemptions, and will require vaccinations for employees who have regular interaction with the public when we return back to the office."

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who has repeatedly urged people to get vaccinated, opposes the idea of requiring state employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine. On Monday, he said he prefers to focus on communicating the vaccine's efficacy and expanding access.

"The idea that I would kick somebody out of a job — and especially in the kind of economy we have now — because, quote unquote, they wouldn't get vaccinated right away on an [emergency use authorization]-approved vaccine ... No. I'm not gonna play that game," Baker said Monday.

Healey, a Democrat who pundits have watched as a possible gubernatorial candidate, said there could be legally protected exemptions for public employees for reasons such as disability or religious belief. State workers who refuse to be vaccinated should be handled on a "case-by-case" basis, she said.

Healey cited the frequent calls for widespread vaccinations from national experts such as National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

"There's something real about vaccine hesitancy and I want to acknowledge that. People are scared. Now there's information coming out about vaccines for kids 12 to 15 or under 12," she said. "I get that fear, and I get the history of vaccinations, particularly as it relates to communities of color and the fear there, but I think that's something we've got to address with more education and more personal dialogue about things."

"I don't want to diminish people's genuine concern and fear, but I trust Fauci, I trust MGH's own Rochelle Walensky, who's now heading the CDC," Healey added. "I mean, science, you know? I feel like this is the way to go and a path to a quicker resumption of regular life."

In March, days before Healey first said she believes vaccines should be mandatory for some public employees, declared Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Downing called for all state police, first responders and teachers to become vaccinated. Unlike Healey, Downing said specifically that he believes any of those public-sector employees who refuse a shot should not be allowed to remain on the job.

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