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Massachusetts Hospitals Could Require Employees To Get COVID-19 Vaccine Shots

BOSTON (CBS) - Doctors, nurses, and all healthcare workers were among the very first in Massachusetts to get COVID-19 vaccinations.

Back then, a Mass General Hospital worker named Kathy says she was a bit uncomfortable with people asking if she got one.

"It was like asking somebody who did you vote for? It's a personal opinion," she said.

But it could become a requirement. Northeastern University nursing student Teresa Nguyen couldn't wait to get hers.

"I mean there's other vaccinations that are required to work in healthcare. Like measles, mumps, rubella. To get the flu shot every year is also required, so I don't see why this would be any different," Nguyen said.

Hospitals across the country are starting to announce plans to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for staff.

"The hospitals have started discussing it," said Dr. Paul Sax, clinical director of the division of infectious diseases at Brigham and Women's Hospital. "That is actually a very bold move and a very appropriate one, and I think it would not surprise me if I see hospitals in the Boston area move in that direction."

But it's controversial. A group of employees in Houston filed a lawsuit last week against their hospital because of its mandate.

In Massachusetts, the numbers are high among healthcare workers anyway. Across UMass Memorial Medical Center's entire system, 76% of the staff is fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

At Tufts Medical Center, it's 90%.

At Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 88%.

At Mass General Hospital, Brigham and Women's, and their affiliates, the number makes up 77% of the staff.

"I think they're headed that way," said Mass General nurse Marybeth Singh, when asked about a potential vaccination mandate for employees. "We all had COVID back in December, my family, so I said I better get it because I have kids, but I don't think it should be mandatory for everyone."

Thursday morning, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told CBS it will be up to private companies to decide on vaccination requirements.

At this point, no Massachusetts hospitals have announced plans for mandatory vaccinations.

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