Forced vaccination on table for Boston workers?

BOSTON — Mayor Kim Janey said she is leaning towards imposing a vaccination mandate on Boston’s 18,000 city employees, but if that step is taken, it will be done in a “thoughtful, worker-centered” way.

Janey would seem to have little practical choice other than to come to a mutual understanding on a mandate.

“Ninety percent of our workforce is unionized,” Janey said at a City Hall press conference Thursday. “And so we want to bring people to the table to make sure that we are doing this right.”

Janey said the push to get city workers vaccinated is coming at a critical time in the pandemic.

“After months of extremely low and declining cases, we have seen a marked increase in COVID activity in Boston over the last several weeks,” she said. “The majority of the people affected by the increase in COVID positivity in Boston are individuals between the ages of 20 and 39 years old.”

In the last two weeks, Boston logged 704 new COVID cases, a nearly five-fold increase over the previous two-week total of 147 new cases. Since the pandemic began, nearly 72,000 Boston residents have tested positive for COVID-19; 1,399 have died.

“After a year-and-a-half of battling COVID-19, I understand many of us feel ready to move on from the pandemic,” Janey said.  “But let me be clear, the pandemic is not over.”

In fact, the pandemic has entered an uncharted phase -- with a much more transmissible variant circulating at a time when many remain unvaccinated.

And at least one recent study found evidence of partially waning immunity only  months after vaccination.

Nonetheless, as Janey pointed out, vaccination remains the most effective protection against COVID-19.

And, overall, Boston has embraced the vaccines, with 66 percent of residents getting at least one dose, so far, Janey said. “To date, more than 400,000 Boston residents have been fully vaccinated.”