Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recommended lifting the statewide mandate that healthcare workers receive injections related to Covid-19 as a pre-condition of working in Maine.
DHHS filed a proposed rule change Tuesday that would lift the mandate, and the Department of Public Safety filed a similar rule change that would life the mandate for EMS workers.
Rep. Laurel Libby (R-Auburn), who has been a top critic of the mandate, said late Tuesday in a Facebook post that DHHS has told lawmakers it will immediately stop enforcing the mandate.
“From the Department: ‘The rule was filed today, will be noticed publicly next week, and we hope to adopt an updated rule by the end of the year. However, having filed the rule, the Department is now utilizing enforcement discretion – DHHS will no longer be enforcing the COVID-19 vaccine requirement, effective immediately.’”
A spokesperson from DHHS did not immediately return a request for comment.
Gov. Mills premised her policy, which excluded religious and philosophical exemptions, on the belief that widespread vaccination would stop transmission of the virus.
“It is this policy that will keep health care workers and their patients alive,” she said, two months later.
“Getting vaccinated – which I think is the collective responsibility of Maine people and it’s something that more than one million of us have already done and something that Pope Francis calls “An act of love”– it’s the best and most effective way out of this pandemic,” she said.
However, the various products marketed as vaccines or immunizations have not been shown to prevent transmission of the virus.
The DHHS does not admit that Mills’ policy and similar mandates in other jurisdictions were imposed on the basis of a poor understanding of those pharmaceutical products, on claims that were not true, or on a faulty understanding of the science.
Instead, the DHHS press release said the decision was coming now, nearly two years after the imposition of the mandate, “in response to evolving scientific evidence and trends.”
As part of those trends, DHHS cited “increased population immunity resulting from vaccination and prior infections,” seeming to imply — falsely — that the COVID-19 shots confer immunity.
House Republicans said Mills should have known much earlier that the scientific basis of her mandate was flawed when she allowed workers who tested COVID-19 positive to return to work so long as they were vaccinated.
“When the science changed and workers who tested positive for COVID-19 were then allowed to work as long as they were vaccinated, we renewed our calls for justice and common sense,” House Republicans said in a statement.
“The mandate continued long after it was scientifically clear the vaccines did not prevent the spread of COVID-19 or keep people from getting it,” the Republicans said.
Mills, despite being vaccinated and boosted, has since contracted the virus herself twice.
Thousands of healthcare workers left their jobs rather than receive one of the experimental vaccines, exacerbating a healthcare worker shortage in Maine. Some of those vacancies were filled with expensive travel nurses, raising healthcare costs in the state.
The mandate on EMS workers exacerbated a similar shortage of paramedics and emergency medical technicians.
Although a legal challenge from some healthcare workers against the mandate initially failed in circuit court, a panel of appeals court judges recently decided that the lower court had erred.
The plaintiffs in that case are suing Mills for religious discrimination because she refused to include religious and philosophical exemptions for the mandate.
That case — Lowe v. Mills — will have its first hearing back in the U.S. District Court in Portland on Wednesday.
DHHS’s decision comes at an odd time politically, considering that the challenge is back in court tomorrow.