Following an announcement from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio that proof of vaccination will be required for many indoor activities such as gyms, theaters, and restaurants, Acting Mayor Kim Janey was asked Tuesday if she would follow suit in Boston. What came next was the latest controversy in the summer edition of this year’s mayoral race.
In a video on WCVB’s website, Janey responded by saying that showing proof of vaccination is “difficult to enforce,” and stated on Twitter that “…there are no current plans for business sector vaccination mandates…” She also likened the concept to slavery and birtherism in the video.
Janey told reporters on Tuesday that “there’s a long history in this country of people needing to show their papers, whether we’re talking about this from the standpoint of, you know, as a way to after, during slavery, post slavery, as recently as, you know, what the immigrant population has to go through here.”
She continued, “we heard Trump with the birth certificate nonsense. Here, we want to make sure that we are not doing anything that would further create a barrier for residents of Boston or disproportionately impact BIPOC communities.”
Janey said that her intention is to work with community organizations to get the vaccine out to all residents.
Despite not having plans to mandate proof of vaccination at the city level, Janey said that “as it relates to people who want to encourage their workforce to get vaccinated, we certainly support that.”
Right now, about 66 percent of Bostonians are fully vaccinated, she said. “”We’re inching closer and closer to 70 percent having at least one shot,” Janey added. “That is good progress. We have much more work to do to make sure that everyone can get the vaccine and we’ll continue to focus on that.”
Other mayoral candidates have issued statements in response to Janey’s comments, including City Councilors Andrea Campbell and Michelle Wu, who did not agree with Janey’s remarks.
“When we are combating a deadly virus and vaccine hesitancy, this kind of rhetoric is dangerous,” Campbell said. “There is already too much misinformation directed at our residents about this pandemic, particularly Black and brown residents, and it is incumbent upon us as leaders not to give these conspiracies any more oxygen. Showing proof of vaccination is not slavery or birtherism. We are too close to give ground to COVID. It’s pretty simple — Vax up and mask up.”
Wu said, “as the level of government closest to Bostonians, City Hall must ensure our communities get the protection they need so we can end this pandemic. Vaccination should be mandatory for city workers, and our leaders should build trust in vaccines. I also support requiring proof of vaccination to protect people at restaurants, shops, theaters, and other indoor venues, and will work to strengthen our public health infrastructure so the burden does not fall on our small businesses and workers as we work to close the vaccination gap across every neighborhood.”
Annissa Essaibi George’s campaign also weighed in on the matter, saying that she feels the most important thing for the city to do is place emphasis on vaccinating everyone quickly.
Her campaign issued the following statement: “Annissa believes the only thing we should be focusing on is getting shots in arms, which is critical to ending this pandemic. We should all be able to agree on that. We need to stop making this a politically-charged issue.”
Mayoral candidate John Barros said he would support mandating vaccines in Boston in a similar fashion as NYC.
“The City of Boston must lead with clear scientific facts: the vaccines are extremely successful at preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death. Any other misleading rhetoric not only endangers lives, it exacerbates existing health disparities, and fuels uncertainty for workers and businesses,” Barros said. “We need our public leaders to be leading by example by encouraging vaccination with every possible tool. We must instill confidence in our public spaces and businesses, and do everything we can to keep people healthy and the economy open.”