Mandatory vaccination debate is percolating

As more and more people get vaccinated, questions on what to do with people who refuse to get their shot(s) keep coming up. Should vaccinations be optional, required, or just required for people in certain occupations?

It’s not an easy question to answer. Getting more people vaccinated improves the chances of herd immunity and the possibility of putting COVID behind us. But requiring people to get a vaccination – particularly if the vaccine is authorized for emergency use only – smacks of Big Brother and rubs a lot of people the wrong way.

It’s an interesting issue to watch in the percolating race for governor – both from a policy sense and as a way of gauging the political instincts of the candidates and potential candidates. 

So far, none of them has called for mandatory vaccinations for everyone. Ben Downing, the former Democatic state senator and the only official candidate for governor, jumped into the debate after news reports about the slow uptake of vaccine among members of the State Police. “No vaccine, no job,” Downing tweeted. “When you sign up to protect and serve, you need to keep the commitment to protect in every way.” 

In a subsequent interview with State House News Service, Downing indicated he would take the same stance on any worker in the public sector who deals with the public – from health care workers to teachers. (Most of those workers represent key voting constituencies and oppose the idea of mandatory vaccinations. The Massachusetts Teachers Association, for example, wants nothing to do with the idea.)

In an interview on Greater Boston, Attorney General Maura Healey adopted a similar position during a discussion about the State Police and prison guards. “If you’re going to sign up for public work and receive a paycheck from the taxpayers of this state who have sacrificed and lost so much … I’m thinking too of our small businesses, the whole economy, the devastation of our communities, the devastation to communities of color, the heartache, think about the deaths, dozens and dozens in so many nursing homes around the state,” Healey said. “You can’t get a vaccination? It’s irresponsible.”

Healey’s comments came with a hedge. She said she was not answering the question from a legal standpoint, but “as a matter of what’s right, practical, and common sense.”

During an interview on Boston Public Radio, Gov. Charlie Baker was pressed on requiring members of the State Police to be vaccinated. He indicated the question was actually much broader, ticking off all the employees paid with tax dollars who deal with the public. 

“I don’t think you should put somebody in a position where they have to choose between a vaccine that they may be very concerned about taking for some very good reasons and their jobs, at least at this point in the process,” Baker said. “I want to concentrate on getting people vaccinated first.”

Baker indicated he might reconsider his position after more time has gone by.

The issue of a vaccine pass has received less attention, but in some respects it’s the flip side of the mandatory vaccine debate. If you don’t require everyone to get vaccinated, can you limit interactions with those who refuse to get vaccinated by permitting access to various public spaces or to forms of travel only to those with passes showing they have received their shot(s)?

Baker hedged. “It’s a conversation worth having for all kinds of reasons but I would rather have the feds give us a framework to begin with,” Baker said. “Having 50 states doing 50 different things on this could get pretty complicated.”



The Department of Children and Families failed autistic teenager David Almond time and time again, making inexplicable decisions and ignoring danger signs until the 14-year-old died, emaciated and bruised, allegedly at the hands of his caregivers. A damning report turns a harsh spotlight on the state’s child protection agency, highlighting problems that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but are not entirely due to it. Read more.

What happened to David Almond? Here’s what the report from the Office of the Child Advocate says. Read more.

In a sadly recurring story, top Massachusetts officials charged with protecting vulnerable children admitted Wednesday that the system failed badly in not preventing the death of Fall River teenager David Almond. Read more.

Gov. Charlie Baker says a lot more single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines — 100,000 doses in all — are headed to Massachusetts next week. Read more.


Jim Aloisi says President Biden gets it right with his “fix it right” infrastructure plan. Read more





A national spike in anti-Asian attacks spurs calls to pass a bill updating state law against hate crimes. (Associated Press)

A study by the Pioneer Institute says a “millionaire’s tax” would hit a lot more than just super-high-income earners, also affecting people cashing in retirement plans or selling real estate when they retire. (Boston Herald)

With Donald Trump not around to sue anymore, Attorney General Maura Healey is shifting her attacks to Gov. Charlie Baker, says Peter Lucas. (Boston Herald


The Dorchester Reporter documents some comings and goings at Boston City Hall, including the departure of corporation counsel Eugene O’Flaherty, who left to do lobbying.

City and town officials are awaiting guidance on how they can use an impending influx of federal money from the American Rescue Plan. (Eagle-Tribune) County officials report similarly that they want to see Treasury Department guidance before deciding how to spend the likely windfall. (Patriot Ledger)

The Civil Service Commission rules that the Peabody mayor was wrong in participating in the hiring decisions for seven firefighter openings, when two of the applicants were friends of his. (Salem News)

Rockport’s volunteer firefighters demand the firing of the assistant fire chief, after he accused the volunteers of arson because of a training exercise they participated in. (Gloucester Daily Times)


Despite an error that contaminated 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine during the manufacturing process (the error was caught before they were distributed), Massachusetts will still get 100,000 doses of the vaccine this week. (MassLive)

The CDC says COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the US in 2020 after heart disease and cancer. The impact fell disproportionately on people of color, the agency said. (NPR) 

The next stage in vaccination efforts: immunizing children. A study of the Pfizer vaccine shows it is highly effective among 12-to-15-year-olds. (Boston Globe)

The Food and Drug Administration approves two rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests. (NPR)

Worcester-based Fallon Health will exit the commercial insurance market and focus only on coverage of those in government programs like Medicare and Medicaid. (Boston Globe)


President Biden’s massive infrastructure spending proposal is a huge bet on the idea that he can shift the national lens from denigrating the role of government to seeing it as the country’s big hope. (New York Times) State and local officials are praising the infrastructure proposal, saying it could result in a large amount of money flowing to Massachusetts projects, like improving roads and bridges and addressing climate change. (Gloucester Daily Times)

The US Supreme Court hears a case challenging the NCAA’s limits on athlete compensation on antitrust grounds. (NPR)


Prominent Boston area black executives were among a group of 70 black business leaders nationally who signed onto a letter demanding that corporate America denounce state-based efforts to restrict voting rights and access. (Boston Globe)

Seasonal tourism attractions open for their regular season in Salem today – but with lots of changes and restrictions. (Salem News)

The Massachusetts fishing industry will get $23 million in federal CARES Act money. (Standard-Times)


The parents of a former Duxbury Middle School student, who has since died of an overdose, sue the school district and the boy’s former gym teacher, claiming the teacher repeatedly raped their son. (Patriot Ledger)


The city of Boston’s chief environmental official, Chris Cook, is leaving to become executive director of the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy. (Boston Globe)

In an op-ed, retired physician Marty Nathan condemns efforts to build a wood-fired power plant in Springfield. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)


Police use of stun guns in Massachusetts dropped in 2019 for the first time in years. (Eagle-Tribune)