Liberal Somerville Rejects Vaccine Passport Mandate

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Somerville is one of the most Democratic-leaning places in Democratic-leaning Massachusetts.

And yet, the city’s board of health said no to a vaccine passport mandate during a meeting last week.

The Somerville Board of Health voted 2-1 against implementing an indoor coronavirus vaccine mandate for businesses in the city on Thursday, January 20. The members who voted against it cited the city’s high vaccination rate and other measures the city is taking to protect its residents against the coronavirus pandemic.

Board chairman Brian Green and fellow member Paula Machado voted against the vaccine passport mandate. Board member Robert Ciccia voted in favor of it.

Green said from what he has seen, mandating proof of vaccination for entry into businesses won’t stop the spread of the Omicron variant. He used TD Garden as an example. Proof of vaccination against coronavirus has been a requirement for entry to Boston Bruins and Celtics home games all season, even before the city put its coronavirus passport mandate in place. 

“This policy is a really good idea for what we were facing with Delta, and I’m worried that it’s less of a good policy for Omicron,” Green said during the meeting . “I watch the people going into TD Garden, and they show their vaccine pass, and then they take their masks off and they sit next to each other and scream and yell. That’s not gonna decrease the spread.”

Green also said that he does have reservations about using mandates to get more people vaccinated against coronavirus.

“And with the other half of my heart, I just keep thinking, ‘Is this the way to gain trust,’ to convince more people to get vaccinated?’ ” Green said.

Ciccia, who supported the proposal, said that he doesn’t see a problem with requiring a vaccine passport to enter certain places.

“Our position is, is this reasonable, right?” Ciccia said before the vote. “It’s not, ‘Is it perfect? Is it going to solve everything?’ Because the answer to those two are no. But is it reasonable? I think yeah, it is reasonable.”

The proposed policy would have required that people have gotten at least one shot against coronavirus to enter businesses by the end of January 2022. The city also would have fined businesses $300 for violating these rules.

Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne disagrees with the board of health’s decision, but wants to continue to look at ways to mitigate the spread of the virus.

“The important takeaway from last night’s hearing is that the Board and the City are in agreement that vaccination is critical to getting this virus under control,” Ballantyne said in a statement. “This decision will not slow us down, it just adds fuel to our efforts to address the virus on every front.”

Somerville is a heavily Democratic city of about 81,000 about three miles northwest of Boston. President Joe Biden got 87.4 percent of the vote in Somerville in the 2020 presidential election; Republican Donald Trump only got 10.1 percent of the vote.

If Somerville had approved a vaccine passport mandate, it wouldn’t have been the first Massachusetts community to do it. Brookline, Salem, and Boston have one in place already.


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