Politics & Policy

Boston Mayor Likens NYC’s Vaccination Mandate to Slavery

Kim Janey smiles after being sworn in as the 55th Mayor of the City of Boston, Mass., March 24, 2021. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

After New York City announced this week that it will require proof of vaccination at many indoor businesses, the acting mayor of Boston said her city will not follow suit given that such requirements are reminiscent of “slavery” and birtherism.

Following New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement that he will require proof of vaccination to enter indoor restaurants, entertainment venues and gyms beginning next month, acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey noted “there’s a long history” in the United States of people “needing to show their papers.”

“During slavery, post-slavery, as recent as, you know, what the immigrant population has to go through here, we’ve heard Trump with the birth certificate nonsense,” said Janey, the first woman and black Bostonian to serve as mayor. 

“Here, we want to make sure that we are not doing anything that would further create a barrier for residents of Boston or disproportionally impact BIPOC communities,” she told WCVB

The mayor said Boston “wants to lean in heavy” on collaborating with community groups to get more Bostonians vaccinated. Sixty-six percent of the city’s residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to Janey.

“That is good progress,” Janey said. “We have much more work to do to make sure that everyone can get the vaccine and we will continue to focus on that.”

She said the city “certainly” supports people who want to encourage their workforce to get vaccinated.

However, Janey, who took office in March after Marty Walsh resigned to serve as President Biden’s labor secretary, said a mandate similar to the one in New York would be “difficult” to enforce.

City Councilor Andrea Campbell, who is running against Janey in the city’s upcoming mayoral election, was critical of the mayor’s “dangerous” comments.

“When we are combating a deadly virus & vaccine hesitancy in some communities, this kind of rhetoric is dangerous,” Campbell tweeted. “Showing proof of vaccination is not slavery or birtherism. We are too close to give ground to COVID. Science is science. It’s pretty simple – Vax up and mask up.”

Janey later defended her comments during a block party on Tuesday, according to the Boston Globe.

“What I said was there is a long history of asking people to show their papers,” Janey said. “What our focus here in Boston is in making sure that everyone has access to the vaccine, making sure that we are doing everything to vaccinate our workforce in the city of Boston, making sure that our residents have access to the vaccine.”

The mayor’s press office also released a statement, further defending Janey’s remarks: “Earlier today, I pointed out several hurdles facing communities of color with lower vaccination rates. These hurdles should not be excuses, but we must consider our shared history as we work to ensure an equitable public health and economic recovery.”

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