The Mills Administration announced that 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.

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, 2021. 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 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.

Maine continues to make nation-leading progress with its vaccination effort. Last week, Governor Mills announced that 80 percent of adults in Maine have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, achieving another milestone for the state as it continues to confront an increase in cases associated with the Delta variant. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC), 80.5 percent of adults (18+) in Maine have received a COVID-19 vaccination, one of eight states in the nation to reach the milestone.

Maine is the third best state in the nation in the percentage of residents who are fully vaccinated, with more than 64 percent of all residents – including children under 12 who are not yet eligible for a vaccine – fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Maine also continues to make progress in vaccinating younger people, with more than 50 percent of youth ages 12 to 19 being fully vaccinated.

Despite having the oldest median age population in the country, Maine, adjusted for population, ranks fourth lowest in the nation in hospitalizations over the last two weeks, third lowest in total number of cases, and fourth lowest in number of deaths from COVID-19, according to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.