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Barnstable County suspends COVID vaccine policy


Barnstable County is suspending its COVID vaccine policy for its employees.

County commissioners voted Wednesday to no longer require government workers to get vaccinated against the virus, with the severity of the virus waning compared to the beginning of the pandemic.

The Baker Administration, meantime, has kept its vaccine requirement in place. Although the governor announced in October it would invite a small number of employees back who had been fired for not getting vaccinated. Those employees had generally requested a religious exemption. The Steamship Authority has also kept the requirement in place, which was subjected to a lawsuit.

It’s been about a year since Barnstable County introduced its policy.

Commissioners approved the requirement in late November last year during the state’s public health emergency.

Barnstable County Deputy director Vaira Harik said Wednesday that Massachusetts is no longer in a state of emergency.

“We are now in an endemic phase,” Harik told Commissioners. “And we no longer see a reason to have an exception for vaccinations for COVID related issues when we don’t have requirements for influenza, pneumococcal, pneumonia, and that sort of thing.”

She also said that if cases start to surge again, commissioners could bring the policy back.

“Should it change its profile in the wild and reemerge and the public health emergency is brought back, we’d have the option to reinvigorate the policy," Harik said. "But at this time we don’t see any reason to do so.”

Commissioners agreed that things have returned somewhat to a post-pandemic normalcy, enough at least to suspend the policy.

The county employs about 250 people.

Sam Houghton left CAI in February, 2023, to become News Editor at the Martha's Vineyard Times.
He worked at CAI since the summer of 2017. Before that, he worked at the Falmouth Enterprise, where he covered local politics.