As the state begins to reopen and the vaccine rollout, well, rolls on, we're living in a bit of a gray area in some ways.

Christopher Robertson, professor of Health & Disability Law at Boston University, answered some of our questions about vaccines and masks as we navigate through this transitional period.

Can universities and employers mandate you get vaccinated?

Yes, according to Robertson, and many of them are in Massachusetts and around the country. Universities have long required certain vaccinations from students and some are just adding the COVID-19 vaccine to that roster. And businesses, if they are private enterprises, can do the same.

What are vaccine passports and is there movement to implement them?

Vaccine passports are a more secure way to verify someone is vaccinated. Anyone who has been vaccinated has received a paper card noting when, where, and what dose they’ve received, But according to Robertson, the cards are easy to fake and people are making their own. Vaccine passports would allow companies like airlines or concert venues to securely and accurately verify that someone has been vaccinated without these cards. Unfortunately, says Robertson, the federal government has left the development of such a system up to private enterprise and though there’s been some movement, nothing concrete has been created here in the U.S.

I’ve seen a lot of companies and states offering incentives for getting vaccinated. Do these work and is it ethical to pay someone to get their shot?

The short answers are yes and yes. Robertson says research shows incentives could recruit roughly 10-percent of hesitant folks to get their shot. Some incentives he’s seen in other states include entrance into a lottery for a cash prize, free food and alcohol, and free college tuition at state colleges. And in terms of whether this practice is right or wrong, Robertson says most insurance companies are already doing this in some form now. Co-pays and deductibles are essentially discounts to get medical care, an incentive if you will. Robertson adds that in a public health emergency, it’s all hands on deck to get people vaccinated and prevent deaths.

At the end of the month, the state’s mask mandate will lapse. This means vaccinated people will no longer be required to wear masks in most indoor settings. But can individual businesses still require and enforce mask wearing?

Yes. This goes back to the private enterprise concept above. If a business can say ‘No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service’ then they can also require mask wearing. And, they can enforce that requirement, too.

And speaking of that mask mandate, most of the state’s COVID restrictions will also be ending at the end of the month. We heard from Dr. Robert Klugman, medical director of employee health services at UMass Memorial Medical Center, about why he and others are uneasy about re-opening and why we all should remain cautious about it.

Click on the audio player above to listen to the full episode


Dr. Robert Klugman - 2:17
Christopher Robertson - 15:18