AUGUSTA — The Mills Administration announced Thursday it will require health care workers in Maine to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect the health and lives of Maine people, safeguard Maine’s health care capacity, and limit the spread of the virus, according to a news release.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC), utilizing their authority under existing law to require certain vaccinations of people who work in health care settings, issued an emergency rule that will require health care workers to be fully vaccinated by October 1, the news release stated.
This timeframe provides health care workers the next five weeks to receive their needed shots.
Health care workers are defined as including any individual employed by a hospital, multi-level health care facility, home health agency, nursing facility, residential care facility, and intermediate care facility for individuals with intellectual disabilities that is licensed by the State of Maine. The emergency rule also requires those employed by emergency medical service organizations or dental practices to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
With this move, Maine becomes one of the most aggressive states in the nation in requiring vaccination of health care workers, both in terms of the scope of health care workers and timeframe for vaccination, the release said.
“Vaccinations are the best tool we have to protect the lives and livelihoods of Maine people and to curb this pandemic,” said Governor Mills. “Health care workers perform a critical role in protecting the health of Maine people, and it is imperative that they take every precaution against this dangerous virus, especially given the threat of the highly transmissible Delta variant. With this requirement, we are protecting health care workers, their patients, including our most vulnerable, and our health care capacity. I continue to strongly urge all Maine people to get vaccinated because doing so may save your life, the life of a family member or friend, or the life of a child not yet eligible for a vaccine.”
“Maine’s hospitals, clinics, nursing facilities and other health providers are on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19,” said Jeanne Lambrew, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. “We thank those who have already taken this critical step for themselves, their patients and their communities, but with the arrival of the Delta variant in Maine, it is more important than ever to protect these workers through vaccination.”
“Scientific data show that vaccination is our best protection against all strains of the virus that causes COVID-19,” said Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Given the elevated risk posed by the Delta variant, this is a prudent step in preventing COVID-19 from putting more Maine people at risk, especially those who care for others.”
The State of Maine has long required the immunization of employees of designated health care facilities to reduce the risk of exposure to, and possible transmission of, vaccine-preventable diseases. These immunizations include measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis B, and influenza. This existing rule has been amended to include the COVID-19 vaccine. The organizations to which this requirement applies must ensure that each employee is vaccinated, with this requirement being enforced as a condition of the facilities’ licensure.
According to a mandated survey of health care settings by the Department of Health and Human Services, 80.3 percent of staff at hospitals, 73 percent of staff at nursing facilities, and 68.2 percent of staff at intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The move was welcomed by a broad coalition of health care providers across Maine, including Maine Hospital Association, Maine Medical Association, Maine Primary Care Association, and Maine Health Care Association, along with the state’s two largest health systems, MaineHealth and Northern Light Health.