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Hebrew SeniorLife to require all employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19

Hebrew SeniorLife Health Care Services and Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Roslindale
Hebrew SeniorLife Health Care Services and Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in RoslindaleBarry Chin/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

New England’s largest senior health care provider said Monday that it will require all employees to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by Oct. 1, even if the federal government has not fully approved the available vaccines by that date.

Hebrew SeniorLife, a nonprofit Harvard Medical School affiliate with roughly 2,600 employees, also began on Monday to require all new hires to be vaccinated before they begin working, the organization said.

Lou Woolf, chief executive of Hebrew SeniorLife said he was “immensely proud of our employees who have stayed strong and courageous in the face of risk to themselves and their families, true to our values, and committed through this pandemic, no matter how challenging.”

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“Now that we’ve seen the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines, we feel it’s our moral obligation to deploy them to their full extent, like we do all other tools at our disposal, to keep our patients, residents, and employees as safe as we possibly can,” Woolf said in a statement.

The failure of many nursing home staff members to get vaccinated has emerged as one of the most serious gaps in the nation’s defenses against the coronavirus. But many providers are reluctant to require vaccinations in advance of full approval by the US Food and Drug Administration. The three vaccines available in the United States have so far been granted only emergency use authorizations.

Hebrew SeniorLife has a vaccination rate much higher than that of most nursing homes nationwide, according to the statement. Nearly 100 percent of patients and 84 percent of the organization’s employees are vaccinated, compared to 81.3 percent of residents and 58.4 percent of nursing home workers nationally, according to the most recent data from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Kay Lazar of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.