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Judge rejects plea by prison guards to exempt them from Oct. 17 vaccination deadline

The roughly 40% of state prison guards who haven't gotten vaccinated against Covid-19 might want to start looking for a place to get a single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot, because a federal judge today rejected their request to block Gov. Baker's Sunday deadline for showing proof of vaccination.

US District Court Judge Timothy Hillman said public health outweighs the arguments the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union made in its lawsuit against the order:

Even considering the economic impact on the Plaintiffs if they choose not to be vaccinated, when balancing that harm against the legitimate and critical public interest in preventing the spread of COVID-19 by increasing the vaccination rate, particularly in congregate facilities, the Court finds the balance weighs in favor of the broader public interests.

In his ruling, Hillman said that, for starters, there's nothing he can do because the guards' union is pursuing similar action against the order administratively, through the state Department of Labor Relations, and that process has to play out before it can go before a court. Right now, it's too early to seek court action on a claim the state is violating the workers' contract rights, because the department serves a quasi-judicial role and has yet to take a side on the issue on which the court can rule.

But more important, Hillman continued, sometimes the public good outweighs contract negotiations - and in this case, the state has an interest in protecting the health of workers, prisoners and the general public by enacting a vaccine mandate for its employees in the face of a deadly virus.

EO 595 [the governor's executive order requiring vaccination] operates as a condition of employment and not a core provision of the ]union's contract], which does not undermine the bargaining agreement and can be seen as a reasonable and foreseeable mechanism to maintain a safe work environment. Further, EO 595 does not appear to prevent Plaintiffs from safeguarding their rights, as the MCOFU is currently pursuing those claims at the DLR. Finally, even if Plaintiffs could show a substantial impairment of a contractual relationship, their claim under the Contracts Clause would not succeed because EO 595 is a reasonable and appropriate way to advance the significant goal of stopping the spread of COVID-19 in the state prison system.

Hillman continued that the Supreme Court "has rejected the idea of a fundamental right to refuse vaccination," in the 1905 Jacobson case involving an anti-vaxxing Cambridge minister during a smallpox outbreak.

The Court recognized that states have the authority to enact quarantine and health laws and that "a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members." The Court explained that it was not the judiciary's role to determine the most effective method to protect the public against disease. Instead, "[t]hat was for the legislative department to determine in the light of all the information it had or could obtain." The Court concluded the Massachusetts statute was constitutional because it had a real and substantial relation "to the protection of the public health and the public safety" amid the smallpox epidemic.

Hillman concluded the vaccination requirement is "rationally related to a legitimate governmental interest."

EO 595 is rationally related to the legitimate government interest in stemming the spread of COVD-19 ... and the vaccines are a safe and effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It is also, "unquestionably a compelling interest." Requiring vaccination for executive department employees is a rational way attain this. For these reasons, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits.

He compared the guards' case to a similar, equally doomed, effort by state troopers to block the order in state court:

As did the Massachusetts State Troopers in a similar case addressed in Massachusetts state court, Plaintiffs "frame the public interest too narrowly, by focusing on its members to the exclusion of everyone else."

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I’m vaccinated and think almost everyone should be.

But what actually happens if they are terminated? What happens to the prisoners who depend on the guards?

Voting closed 17

He activated them to drive the school buses too. How many National Guard do we have, and don't they have regular jobs?

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The state doesn't have a large standing army. We have a few administrators and a large number of people who do have jobs - but who have agreed to drop what they're doing when "activated."

Voting closed 25

It’s a little over 8,000 members.

Voting closed 20

Well, let's just see how many actually resign.

Voting closed 20

Why can't they be given Pfizer? Wasn't the J&J shot the one that had the most bad reviews ? I know everyone is different, but Pfizer and even Moderna had fewer reaction side effects at least I thought from what I read. I had Pfizer and power walked to the liquor store right after.

Voting closed 10

Pfizer requires two shots two weeks apart. That just won't do for guards who have to show up with a vaccination card Monday morning.

Voting closed 29

although of course COVID-19 is more likely to give you heart issues than the vaccine is. J&J is a similar situation: Might cause a few blood clots, but COVID-19 causes more.

Pfizer seems to have the least side effects, although my bet is that Moderna gives better immunity due to the larger dose.

Voting closed 23

I'd love to see the confirmation that this is true with actual statistical analysis, not just a case series.


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This is from some months back and I don't recall where I got it from. I tried poking around and wasn't able to find a good source.

However, I should also note that it was apparently only showing up at a rate of one in a million or so, and was usually mild. So I'm not actually worried about it.

(As it happens, I may have experienced it myself, but I don't have a conclusive diagnosis — just palpitations for some weeks right after my second dose, which could be attributed to other things.)

I'd also be fine with getting the J&J shot, to be clear. The absolute incidence of adverse effects is *really* low!

Voting closed 14

State employees were told to register their vaccination status starting in late August. At that time they had a choice.

They wasted their time, now J&J is all they have left.

Voting closed 25

No, all of the vaccines are fine. You only need one J and J so people fighting to to get vaccinated only need one poke in the arm instead of two. Wonder what on earth these people are afraid of? The must see that all elderly and frail people have had the vaccine and did not suffer any ill effects, just protected against something that would kill them.

Voting closed 16

Plaintiffs "frame the public interest too narrowly, by focusing on its members to the exclusion of everyone else."

Voting closed 36

His pudgy bureaucrats are no match for troopers, correction officers, MBTA and Massport workers who have been working out for the past several years practicing anarchist calisthenics.

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The lot of them are playing into his endgame of discrediting and dismantling public employee unions.

He's a patient man.

Voting closed 16

let them.

As President Obama said to some guy who supposedly used to live here, "Please proceed."

Voting closed 7