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Lawsuit challenging Maine’s health care worker vaccine mandate

Health care workers have until October 1 to be fully vaccinated.
Health care workers have until October 1 to be fully vaccinated.(Gray tv)
Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 6:36 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WMTW) - A new lawsuit is challenging Maine’s mandate requiring all health care workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The complaint, filed in Federal Court in Bangor this week, argues the mandate violates workers’ rights to object to the vaccine because of their religious beliefs.

The mandate, issued by Gov. Janet Mills, requires all health care workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 1.

The suit Lists Gov. Mills, Health and Human Service Commissioner Jean Lambrew, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah and five health care providers as the plaintiffs.

A court filing lists the nine anonymous plaintiffs as workers at MaineHealth, Genesis Healthcare, Northern Light Health, MaineGeneral Health and an owner and employee of a private care practice.

The brief reads, in part, “If Plaintiffs do not comply with the vaccine mandate, they will be terminated and deprived of their ability to feed their families. No American should be faced with this unconscionable choice, especially the health care heroes who have served us admirably for the entire duration of COVID-19.”

A federal judge is expediting the case and has set a status conference for this coming Tuesday.

In a written response provided to WMTW News, Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey said the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers was constitutional and based on a deamination from public health officials to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“For many years the state has required health care workers to be vaccinated against various communicable diseases and, to our knowledge... The state has now simply added an additional disease – COVID-19,” Frey’s statement read in part. “Federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court, have consistently upheld mandatory vaccination requirements.”

Outside the courtroom, groups have continued to push back against the governor’s mandate.

A group of legislatures and independent groups announced they were forming the Alliance Against Healthcare Mandates to support efforts opposing Mills’ order.

Rep. Laurel Libby, R-Auburn, who is part of the new alliance, said she is worried the mandate will lead to critical staffing shortages across Maine’s health care system.

“(Healthcare workers) have been working in this pandemic for a year and a half and they know exactly how short-staffed we are,” Libby said. “When people leave or are fired, there’s no one coming behind them to pick up the pieces.”

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