BOSTON (SHNS) – Boston Mayor Kim Janey and union leaders are “actively working toward” imposing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on the city’s workforce, Janey said Thursday as she forecast an announcement on the topic next week.
Amid growing case counts in Boston and Massachusetts as a whole, Janey said her administration and municipal unions are discussing a plan that would require all 18,000 city employees to get vaccinated against the virus or submit to regular testing.
“We have done the outreach and the calls, and the response has been positive. I believe we all share the concern about the Delta variant, and we all want to protect ourselves,” Janey said at an afternoon press conference. “We are working toward a plan starting with our back to school for our school staff and teachers and others who are working with populations who may be unvaccinated. We will have more to share next week on that.”
Janey said it is unclear what share of the city’s workforce is fully vaccinated because not all departments track employee vaccination status. Many workers have taken advantage of priority clinics, she said, and as of July 27, about 67 percent of Boston’s population had received at least one vaccine dose. She added that testing will need to feature in any plan even though vaccination remains the top priority.
“We need to have a rigorous testing program in place to make sure if there are any unvaccinated employees due to religious beliefs or other items that we continue to protect our workforce,” Janey said. “The goal, however, is to get all of our city workers vaccinated. That is the best protection against this deadly virus, and the Delta variant is not to be played with.”
Last week, Janey said she was “leaning toward” implementing a vaccine mandate. Several other public offices including the state auditor, treasurer, and attorney general have announced in recent weeks that they will require staff to get vaccinated.
Janey also expressed skepticism about the viability of a “vaccine passport” system requiring residents to prove their COVID-19 immunization status to access public spaces, saying it would “shut out nearly 40 percent of East Boston and nearly 60 percent of Mattapan” and that officials should instead focus on expanding vaccine access.