3 Largest Massachusetts Hospital Systems Requiring Employees Get COVID-19 Vaccine

June 24, 2021 Updated: June 24, 2021

Three Massachusetts hospital systems have announced that they will require their employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, potentially setting up a legal fight with workers who refuse to do so.

Mass General Brigham stated in a June 24 news release that “it will require its 80,000 employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 once the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) grants approval of one of the three vaccines,” referring to the vaccines made by Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson, which have been granted emergency use authorization from the FDA.

The company said that 85 percent of its employees have already been vaccinated for COVID-19, the illness caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

Additionally, hospital operator Wellforce has stated that it will mandate that its staff members be vaccinated once the shots get full FDA authorization.

“As we do for other required vaccinations, our teams will work together to develop the necessary policies, procedures, and justifiable exemptions to this new requirement, and develop a timeline for when it goes into effect,” the hospital said in a statement.

Beth Israel Lahey Health (BILH), another Massachusetts hospital operator, announced on June 23 that it will require all physicians and staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19 “as a condition of employment” after one of the vaccines receives final FDA approval.

Amid the vaccination announcements, the largest health care union in the country has said it will fight against mandatory COVID-19 vaccines, including in Massachusetts.

George Gresham, president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East said that hospital systems don’t have the right to mandate vaccines for employees. The union, which is based in New York, also represents hundreds of thousands of nurses and caregivers in New Jersey, Florida, Washington, Maryland, and Massachusetts.

“Whether there is a legal challenge that we can make, or whether it’s just a pure organizational challenge that we can make, we are not going to just give in,” Gresham told local news website Gothamist this week.

Gresham, who said he’s been vaccinated and urges others to do so, argues that health care workers “have the right to make their decision about their own health.”

Several other hospitals, including Houston Methodist hospitals, have mandated that employees need to get vaccinated. Houston Methodist told its employees that they had until June 7 to get the vaccine, and thus far, about 150 employees have resigned or have been terminated for refusing to do so.

Former Houston Methodist employees have filed a lawsuit against the company, saying that the vaccines are experimental and potentially dangerous. A judge rejected their lawsuit earlier this month, although the plaintiffs announced that they would appeal.