Three of the largest health care providers in Massachusetts — Mass General Brigham, Beth Israel Lahey Health and Wellforce — will require workers to get COVID-19 vaccinations.
In an email to staff on Thursday, the head of Mass General Brigham said research shows the vaccines are safe and effective — and the single best way to put a stop to the pandemic.
"Getting vaccinated is the single most important and responsible step each of us can take to put an end to this devastating pandemic and protect patients, families and each other," Dr. Anne Klibanski wrote in the email.
The hospital system email said all employees must be vaccinated once the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has provided official approval for one of the three current vaccines. Right now, they're being administered under emergency authorization.
Beth Israel Lahey Health CEO Dr. Kevin Tabb said hospital staff must set an example, protect each other and make certain they don’t infect patients.
"I think it would be very hard for any of us, either individually or collectively as an organization, to live with ourselves knowing that we have potentially caused harm or death if we can avoid it. And we can avoid it," Tabb said.
UMass Memorial says it also expects to require coronavirus vaccinations once they are licensed for general use. The hospital system is not formalizing the mandate until administrators finish discussions with union leaders.
”All of us at UMass Memorial Health have an obligation to do everything we can to keep our patients and caregivers safe, which already includes mandatory vaccinations of our staff for infections such as measles, mumps, Rubella and influenza," said Dr. Eric Dickson, president and CEO at UMass Memorial Health, in a statement. "We anticipate that this list of mandatory vaccinations will include a COVID-19 vaccination once the emergency use authorization is lifted by the FDA.”
The 1199 SEIU, a health care workers union, said in a statement to WBUR that it opposes the mandate.
"Vaccination is an important tool to help us move forward, but an employer mandate is not the answer for a healthcare workforce still struggling to recover," wrote Tim Foley, the executive vice president of 1199 SEIU. "A hard-handed approach will create greater frustration for the healthcare heroes who have been battling this pandemic every day for the last 15 months.”
The state's largest nurses union said it will review each hospital's vaccine mandate policies and urges hospitals to reach out to staff who don't want the shot.
"We believe it is important to be more focused on the goal than a particular strategy — particularly if it diminishes rather than enhances the goal at this time," said Massachusetts Nurses Association spokesman David Schildmeier in an email.
Many health care providers already require staff to receive the flu vaccine.
With reporting by WBUR's Martha Bebinger
This article was originally published on June 24, 2021.