Baker urged to mandate vaccines in disabilities care settings

Coronavirus

BOSTON (SHNS) – The Arc of Massachusetts called on Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday to mandate vaccines for anyone providing care to people with disabilities in group living or day programs, and urged the state to provide direct financial support for surveillance testing and other infection control measures.

“We seriously fear the impact of the increasing cases of Covid-19 in our Commonwealth,” wrote Leo Sarkissian, the executive director of the Arc of Massachusetts, in a statement on the pandemic. Sarkissian said that residential and day programs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have received additional funding through the American Rescue Plan Act and other sources for salaries and staff recruitment, but some of those resources have had to be “repurposed” for surveillance and infection control.

He said programs need “adequate” funding to implement all necessary COVID-19 safety protocols. Gov. Charlie Baker has already mandated that all executive branch employees be vaccinated against COVID-19, and this week the Public Health Council approved his request to require vaccines for home care workers and rest home, assisted living, and hospice program staff.

The governor previously mandated vaccines for workers in skilled nursing facilities. With the Food and Drug Administration giving final approval to the Pfizer vaccine, Sarkissian said it was also time to require vaccinations across the disability services sector. He encouraged any mandate to be as broad as possible to prevent staff from leaving disability programs to work with youth or another at-risk group where a vaccine was not required.

“It is now critically important that we REQUIRE vaccination for ALL our constituents and for those who provide care and support. We ask that all caregiving staff serving through agencies under the aegis of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services have a MANDATORY vaccine requirement,” Sarkissian wrote in the statement.

The statement was sent to Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders and other Executive Office of Health and Human Services officials.

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