BOSTON (WHDH) - Starting Monday, state workers who don’t have proof of a COVID-19 vaccine risk being fired.

Officials said a majority of the state’s 44,000 employees have been vaccinated, and Gov. Charlie Baker said it is vital for them to do so.

“Public employees, many of them, spend a lot of time with the public. I think it’s important for their safety and the safety of the people they deal with every day, that they be vaccinated,” Baker said. “It’s pretty clear vaccines work and they save lives.”

However, some employees have fought the mandate, with the state police filing a lawsuit that was rejected by a judge. In a statement, union leaders said they wanted “reasonable alternatives” to the mandate, which states that employees who have not been vaccinated can be suspended or fired.

“It is unfortunate that the governor and his team have chosen to mandate one of the most stringent vaccine mandates in the country with no reasonable alternatives,” union leaders said in a statement. “Simply put, all we are asking for are the same basic accommodations that countless other departments have provided to their first responders, and to treat a COVID-related illness as a line of duty injury.”

Baker said the state will have to create a database to see who has been vaccinated and that some workers who have gotten a vaccine haven’t shown proof yet. He emphasized the need for vaccination to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Vaccines at this point are clearly effective, clearly work and if you just look at the data nationally, states with low vaccination rates still have very high COVID case counts, hospitalizations, and states with high vaccination rates don’t,” Baker said.

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