Charlie Baker Opposed Coronavirus Vaccine Mandates Before He Supported Them

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Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker once opposed mandating vaccination against coronavirus for public sector employees.

Now, he’s all for it.

The Baker administration mandated that everyone employed by the executive branch of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts got fully vaccinated against coronavirus by Monday, October 18. The mandate included a medical and religious exemption but didn’t include an alternative option of providing a negative test. Baker issued this decree by executive order on August 19.

If state employees fail to comply, the repercussions fall into two categories. Managers receive a five-day suspension without pay — and “continued non-compliance” results in being fired. Meanwhile, union members get a five-day suspension, followed by 10 days of unpaid leave, and then get fired, according to the state’s web site.

Baker defended his sweeping vaccine mandate when he issued the executive order by arguing the vaccine “is by far the most effective tool we have in our toolbox to make it possible to beat this thing.” He also said the state vaccine mandate “would make a statement about the value and the importance of getting vaccinated, and I certainly hope that many other employers will take a look at what we’re doing here and follow suit.”

It’s a different mindset from the one Baker had in May.

On May 3, Baker said he wasn’t interested in giving people the ultimatum of getting the vaccine or getting fired. He cited the vaccines Emergency Use Authorization by the federal government, which is sometimes abbreviated EUA.

“We think this should be driven by incentive-based approaches, make it easier to get vaccinated, easier to get an appointment, easier to find a location that works for you,” Baker told reporters May 3. “The idea that I would kick somebody out of a job – especially in a kind of economy we have now – because quote, unquote ‘they wouldn’t get vaccinated right away’ on an EUA-approved vaccine? No, I’m not going to play that game.”

“There are a bunch of people who are hesitant about this, who have very good reasons for being hesitant about this,” he added. “And the idea that we would take those folks and basically make them choose between their rent and their food on the table and all the rest, when they have in some cases very legitimate reasons to be nervous about a government-run program that’s going to put a shot their arm – I’m not going there. I’m not going there.”

As of Monday, October 18, there were at least 1,571 state employees, including about 300 state troopers, that still weren’t fully vaccinated, according to The Boston Herald.

Massachusetts Republican Party chairman Jim Lyons, who opposes the coronavirus vaccine mandate, criticized Baker for the flip flop.

“These are the same employees who risked their lives performing essential duties such as policing and working corrections jobs when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its absolute peak,” Lyons said in a press release issued by the MassGOP on Monday afternoon. “These workers showed up and dutifully performed their jobs despite the threat, only to be rewarded with an authoritarian ultimatum from Gov. Baker:  submit to the vaccine, or you’re fired.”

The press office for Governor Baker could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday, October 19.


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