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Supreme Court rejects request to block Mass General Brigham vaccine mandate for employees

Massachusetts General Hospital entrance on Fruit Street in Boston.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer on Monday declined to block Mass General Brigham from enforcing a mandate requiring employees of the state’s largest hospital system to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Breyer denied a motion from the plaintiffs — a group of Mass General Brigham employees seeking religious exemptions to the mandate — who sought a preliminary injunction barring the hospital system from enforcing the rule.

“Application (21A175) denied by Justice Breyer,” a note on the official online case docket said Monday. No reason was given for the denial.

A request for comment was sent Monday afternoon to a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

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In a statement, a Mass General Brigham spokesman said 430 employees were fired for failing to comply with the vaccine mandate, out of more than 80,000 who did comply. The spokesman said the hospital system stands by its earlier statement on the lawsuit and had nothing to add Monday.

That earlier statement said Mass General Brigham “joins many other leading health care systems in the United States in making COVID-19 vaccination a condition of employment, ensuring that patients are being cared for in the safest clinical environment possible. The evidence of COVID-19 vaccine safety and effectiveness is overwhelming and more than 99.3% of our employees are vaccinated.”

Getting vaccinated, the statement continued, “is the most important and responsible step each of us can take to put an end to this devastating pandemic and protect patients, families, and each other. Mass General Brigham has communicated regularly with employees since we announced the mandate and had a process for employees to request an exemption for medical or religious reasons. We received a number of exemption requests, and each request was carefully considered by a knowledgeable team of reviewers.”

The Globe reported on the story back in October, when the plaintiffs suffered an earlier setback in US District Court in Boston. Judge F. Dennis Saylor initially denied the plaintiffs’ motion to prevent the company from enforcing its vaccine mandate.

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The plaintiffs have said in court papers that the workers’ disability and religious exemptions had been wrongly denied without explanation or “meaningful interactive process” and “without a showing of undue hardship.”

Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.