Massachusetts health system requiring employees to get bivalent booster

Pittsfield, Mass.-based Berkshire Health Systems has issued a COVID-19 bivalent vaccine booster mandate for employees, public radio network WAMC reported Oct. 27.

Employees must receive the booster shot by Dec. 15, according to a memo obtained by WAMC from Patrick Borek, vice president of human resources.

"As the leading provider of healthcare in Berkshire County, we have a responsibility to create the safest possible care environment for our patients, visitors and our more than 4,000 employees. Masking and other protocols have been good tools for reducing the risk of COVID-19 spread over the past two and a half years," Berkshire Health Systems said in a statement shared with Becker's.

"The effectiveness of those preventive measures is further enhanced by both the initial vaccination and the current bivalent booster, which covers the majority of the COVID cases and COVID transmission that's happening locally and across the country. The B4 and B5 variants are the main ones that are affecting people, and this bivalent booster covers both of them."

The vaccine requirement applies to employees, caregivers, contractors, volunteers and students working and learning within BHS. 

Meanwhile, as of Oct. 29, almost 700 people signed a petition opposing the mandate, calling it "nothing more than bullying by an employer for profit," The Berkshire Eagle reported Oct. 31.

The health system's memo stated that employees may apply for medical or religious exemptions, and those who are not in compliance with the health system's vaccination requirement by Dec. 15 could face suspension without pay.

"In addition to suspension, employees who choose not to comply with this policy will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment, depending on the individual's circumstances," Mr. Borek wrote.

The bivalent booster requirement is an addition to BHS' previous COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

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