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Gov. Baker on the state workers who defied his vaccine mandate: 'They're good people'

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Baker speaks (copy)

Gov. Charlie Baker says he wishes he could solve the riddle of why 1,500 state workers have defied his vaccine order. "I wish I could just figure out what it is that makes the sale. Because I know that [the vaccines] are safe, I know they're effective, and I know they make our commonwealth not just a safer place, but most importantly, a more vibrant place and a place that's more normal than it was two months ago or three months ago or four months ago."

As he stood by the vaccine mandate he has imposed for executive branch workers, Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday said he is not angry at the roughly 1,500 holdouts and wishes he "knew the magic combination" that would convince them to get vaccinated.

The governor told GBH Radio that he has "gotten a lot of incoming [information] from a lot of places and a lot of people" on the issue of vaccination and vaccine mandates, but defended his order requiring executive branch workers to attest they are vaccinated against COVID-19 or apply for a medical or religious exemption by Oct. 17.

More than 1,500 employees did not submit the necessary paperwork by that date and Baker has been mum about discipline. "I just wish I could figure out a way to make it work for them. I mean, a lot, a lot of the people I talk to are very earnest and they're good people and many of them worked all the way through the pandemic and never took a day off, and we owe them a lot. And so it's hard for me to be angry about it or something, it just doesn't make any sense to me to be angry about it given all these people, in many cases, have done for other people in Massachusetts," Baker said during his appearance on "Boston Public Radio."

He added, "I wish I could just figure out what it is that makes the sale. Because I know that [the vaccines] are safe, I know they're effective, and I know they make our commonwealth not just a safer place, but most importantly, a more vibrant place and a place that's more normal than it was two months ago or three months ago or four months ago."

Unions representing State Police and corrections officers launched legal challenges to Baker's mandate and the governor pointed out Tuesday that five times as many law enforcement officers died of COVID over the last two years than died of gunshots.

"Now, they are both horrible tragedies, OK? But five times as many law enforcement officers died of COVID. I don't think it'd be unreasonable to expect them, for themselves and their families and for the people they come in contact with every single day, to get a safe and effective vaccine," Baker said.

Republican candidate for governor Geoff Diehl on Tuesday said the governor had flip-flopped on vaccine mandates and called on Baker in a new ad to "stop punishing the heroes who worked through the pandemic by terminating their employment if they are not complying with the vaccine mandates." 

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