Maine’s Community College System (MCCS) is still mandating COVID-19 shots for students enrolled in programs that require visiting third-party locations, like health care clinics.
Although various governments and government agencies, including in Maine, mandated the COVID-19 shots in 2021 based on the theory that it would prevent transmission, it’s now broadly understood that the injections never prevented transmission.
The lingering mandate is in place despite the MCCS Board of Trustees’ unanimous vote in February to lift the requirement for students at all of Maine’s many community college campuses.
At the time, MCCS President David Daigler recommended the move to the board, saying that the college would move away from mandates and toward wellness education.
That decision was celebrated by Maine’s Republican lawmakers and many Maine families, who had long urged state officials to abandon the mandate in light of the failure of the COVID-19 shots to actually prevent transmission, like typical immunizations do.
The MCCS did say in February that students enrolled in programs that involve third-party site visits would still face the mandate.
However, that was before the Gov. Janet Mills and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) lifted the state-imposed COVID-19 shot mandate for all health care workers on Aug. 3.
Despite that mandate having been lifted for nearly two weeks ago, a spokeswoman for the system confirmed this week that MCCS is still imposing the mandate on students.
“The MCCS student COVID-19 protocol remains in place and there are no immediate plans to change it,” said MCCS Director of Communications and Public Affairs Noel K. Gallagher, in an email to the Maine Wire.
“The protocol continues to reflect COVID-19 vaccine requirements at third-party locations, such as student clinical sites. Maine community college students are guests at these locations, not employees, and may face different requirements than employees,” said Gallagher. “The colleges are in constant communication with clinical sites and follow the requirements set out by those sites.”
Gallagher declined to provide the names of third-party locations or clinical site partners that are still requiring COVID-19 shots for guests or employees.
Maine’s top hospitals have all lifted their COVID-19 shot mandates. One hospital has even begun asking employees it fired in 2021 over non-compliance with the mandate to consider coming back to work.
Young college-aged Mainers have about a 99.99 percent chance of surviving COVID-19 should they get infected, yet getting the injections nonetheless remains a prerequisite for some who wish to enroll in MCCS programs.
That means potential students who have opted not to get the shot and would like to enroll in one of the MCCS’s free health care-related courses will not be allowed to do so.
The decision to restrict access to health care-related courses comes as Maine is suffering a severe shortage in health care workers.
Nicole Hubbard, of Montville, said her son Aiden has attempted several times to enroll in the radiology program at Kennebec Valley Community College (KVCC); however, he’s enrollment has been rejected because he hasn’t received the COVID-19 injections.
Hubbard said her son graduated from high school in 2022 and was refused access to in-person classes. So he decided to take online courses as he waited for the mandate to lift.
“So he did some filler classes as we had a feeling that mandate was going to end at some point and the college was free,” Hubbard said. “Being a family without a lot of money we felt this was our only option for him.”
“He signed up for some classes this fall, but was told that he could not enroll in the radiology program without being vaccinated,” she said. “When the mandate was dropped on May 11, even for healthcare workers, and with a knowledge that local hospitals were welcoming back staff that were unvaccinated because of the need I figured he would have the opportunity to fully enroll finally. That’s when I reached out to MCCS and was told otherwise.”
Hubbard said her son has received the traditional, pre-COVID-19 schedule of vaccines, but he decided against the COVID-19 shot because he was concerned about the rushed testing period and the risk of adverse side effects.
“Aiden made this choice on his own based on research and facts of the effect it has in males, in particular under the age of 21, and the elevated risk of myocarditis, along with it not going through a proper testing period,” she said.
Hubbard said her son has now decided to drop out of college.
“We are currently exploring options outside of the state for him because he will never be able to fulfill his career within the state of Maine,” she said.