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Berkshire Health System lifts is booster mandate

Nov 08, 2022 12:45 am

Larry Parnass reports for The Berkshire Eagle that Berkshire Health Systems announced November 7 that it will no longer require its 3,000-member workforce to receive the bivalent booster against the coronavirus. “We are withdrawing the bivalent booster requirement put in place on October 24, effective immediately,” the statement said. “We continue to strongly recommend that all BHS employees and patients be vaccinated with the bivalent booster dose in order to best protect their own health.” The mandate drew fire, including an online petition signed by 890 people accusing the company of bullying workers. In its statement, the nonprofit said that while data on the effectiveness of the booster shows it to be effective at greatly reducing the severity of illness, “it may be less effective at preventing transmission of the virus.” For that reason, masking and other measures will be needed in the months ahead to contain the spread of COVID-19, the health system said. It operates Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington, and other satellite programs. The petition said that some BMC workers objected to earlier mandates, after vaccines appeared in 2021, but went along. “Many of us went against our values, some of us suffered terrible long-term health consequences and many of us left the company due to the BMC’s failure to take medical and religious exemptions seriously,” the petition said. Opponents also cited the fact that the bivalent booster is not effective at reducing transmission of the disease — a point BHS conceded in its statement Nov. 7. The company said its COVID-19 policies are designed to protect employees and the public, based on “the latest scientific information, laws, regulations, and guidance from public health agencies, and other important factors.” The hospital said that newer coronavirus variants, including BQ.1, BQ.1.1, and BA.4.6, are likely to be prevalent in the region this fall and winter. Read more about this story in The Berkshire Eagle.

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