SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Baystate Health will require all employees, including remote workers, clinical staff, contractors, volunteers, students, and those conducting business in its health care facilities be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

According to a news release sent to 22News, the mandate is effective October 1, an effort to stop the spread of the virus and keep all patients, team members, and community.

In a statement provided by Dr. Mark A. Keroack, the President and CEO of Baystate Health says, “our community is at risk of experiencing a fourth pandemic wave, and cases would be concentrated in unvaccinated individuals and would likely result in more severe illness due to the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19.”

Western Massachusetts currently has lower vaccination rates than most of the state, Hampden County has the lowest at 49 percent, in Franklin County it’s 60 percent, and Hampshire County it’s 55 percent. Barnstable County has the highest rate at 69 percent. Overall, Massachusetts has 63.5 percent of the population fully vaccinated, which is the best in the country.

“The single most effective way to protect our workplace, each other, and our patients is to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Keroack.

More than 160 million people in the U.S., and more than 1 billion worldwide, have been vaccinated against COVID-19. These vaccines have proven to be very safe and highly effective at preventing COVID-19 infection, including that caused by the Delta variant. In the unlikely event of a breakthrough infection, the risk of severe disease or death due to COVID-19 is vanishingly low.

Baystate Health currently mandates vaccinations for influenza and several other infectious diseases, such as measles, mumps, and rubella. Exemptions are available for religious or health reasons and must be formally requested, documented and approved.