Baker clarifies stance on vaccine QR codes
Says he remains opposed to vaccine passport mandate
A DAY AFTER Gov. Charlie Baker revealed that states are in discussions about a scannable code that could be used as proof of COVID vaccination, the Republican governor clarified that he remains opposed to restricting access to businesses or spaces based on vaccine status.
“Governor Baker is not and has never been in favor of a statewide so-called vaccine passport mandate and does not support requiring that businesses or other organizations restrict access based on vaccination status,” Baker spokesperson Sarah Finlaw said in a statement.
Over the past few months, more and more businesses are requiring people to show proof of COVID vaccination. New York City, which has some of the strictest rules, actually mandates that someone provide proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, gyms, and indoor entertainment venues. Some states have started to develop digital methods to prove vaccination even as other states have banned the use of any kind of vaccine passport.
In Massachusetts, Baker has tried to walk a fine line. As an employer, he has required all executive branch employees to show proof of vaccination as a condition of keeping their jobs. He also mandated vaccination for some categories of health care workers, like nursing home employees. But he has opposed a statewide vaccine mandate, instead leaving the decisions to local employers.
Baker clarified Tuesday that he still opposes any kind of statewide mandate, but the code would be a voluntary tool to make it easier for residents to prove vaccination if they are required to by a business.
“Right now, MA residents can voluntarily obtain proof of their vaccination either in paper form, or electronic form from most but not all vaccine providers such as CVS or Walgreens,” Finlaw said in the statement. “The Administration is developing a system for residents, if they choose to, to obtain their digital proof of vaccination if they are unable to obtain it through their vaccine provider.”
Finlaw continued, “Currently, some businesses are choosing to screen customers for vaccination status. There is no Massachusetts requirement that these businesses do so. The Administration is working to make it easier for those residents who wish to download this proof of vaccination record if they want to.”
Baker has not yet said if he will run for a third term in office. Should he run, he will face a Republican primary challenge from Geoff Diehl, a former state representative who has argued strongly against COVID-related mandates.
In other COVID-related news, the Baker administration announced Tuesday that it was launching three mobile units to provide monoclonal antibody treatment to high-risk individuals who have COVID or have been exposed to the virus. The three units combined will have capacity to treat up to 500 patients a week.
Monoclonal antibody treatment is delivered intravenously and has been shown to reduce severe illness and hospitalization when delivered early on in the disease’s progression.Two units started operating November 22 in Fall River and New Bedford, and a third will open in Everett on December 3. Patients will need to be referred by their health care provider. The infusion takes 20 to 30 minutes followed by an hour of monitoring. The clinics are operated by Gothams, a Texas-based emergency management company.