Maine DHHS Proposes Removing COVID-19 Vaccination from Required Immunizations for Health Care Workers

Department of Public Safety to inform Board of Emergency Medical Services for consideration of corresponding action

AUGUSTA— The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced today that it will propose removing the COVID-19 vaccine from the list of required immunizations for workers in health care facilities in response to evolving scientific evidence and trends.

While COVID-19 vaccination remains an important tool to protect public health, the vaccination requirement for health care workers achieved the intended benefits of saving lives, protecting health care capacity, and limiting the spread of the virus in Maine during the height of the pandemic. Despite having the oldest population in the nation, Maine consistently rated among the top states in the country on vaccination and among the lowest on COVID-19 deaths. Maine currently ranks third on bivalent booster vaccination overall and first for those age 65 and older. Additionally, Maine health care professionals’ strong culture of patient safety has limited risk of severe COVID-19 being spread among staff and patients.

The Department filed the proposed rule change with the Secretary of State today based on available clinical and epidemiological data about COVID-19, increased population immunity resulting from vaccination and prior infections, decreasing disease severity, improved treatments, and declining infection and death rates. This follows the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) withdrawal of its requirement for COVID-19 vaccination of health care workers on June 6, 2023. Maine is among four remaining states with some type of COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

In light of this information, the Department of Public Safety’s Maine Bureau of Emergency Medical Services (Maine EMS) will present information to the Board of Emergency Medical Services at their regularly scheduled board meeting on August 2, 2023, for them to consider corresponding action on the existing immunization requirements detailed in Chapter 21 of the Maine EMS Rules. The information presented to the Board will include updates from the scientific literature about the efficacy of the immunization requirements based on the current COVID-19 variant as well as data from the Maine EMS electronic patient care reporting system on EMS clinician exposures. The Board has the authority to make its own determination about the EMS vaccination requirement.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend that everyone 6 months and older, including health care workers, remain up to date on COVID-19 vaccination.

As such, the Department announced today that it will partner with Maine health care providers to encourage voluntary vaccination of health care workers and residents. In the fall of 2021, the Department partnered with the Maine Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program to launch the Power of Care campaign to educate staff about the benefits of vaccination. The Department will invest an additional $250,000 to extend the campaign through April 2024 and broaden its reach to include long-term care residents. Additionally, it will work with Maine hospitals on their efforts to educate and vaccinate their workers.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Maine has followed the science in developing policies to limit the spread of the virus,” said Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “Today, a robust body of evolving evidence tells us that this requirement achieved its goals of saving lives and protecting health at a crucial time. We continue to encourage all Maine people, including dedicated health care workers tending to Maine’s most vulnerable residents, to stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccination.”

“Maine’s hospitals and health systems remain grateful for the Mills Administration’s leadership on this issue,” said Steven Michaud, President of the Maine Hospital Association. “This requirement protected our patients, caregivers and hospitals during the height of the pandemic. We support this science-based update to the rule and will continue to be guided by patient safety in our efforts to limit the spread of the virus and promote vaccination as a valuable tool to protect public health.”

“Maine Health Care Association (MHCA) commends the Mills Administration for continuing to respond to the latest data and updating COVID vaccine requirements accordingly,” said Angela Westhoff, President and CEO of MHCA. “The requirement achieved its intended goals and we fully support this change. Infections remain low and Maine has some of the highest vaccination rates for long-term care staff and residents. As the science evolves, we will continue to follow best practices for infection prevention and control and will promote ongoing efforts to educate our community about the many benefits of vaccines.”

“The Maine Medical Association (MMA) supports the Governor’s announcement today to end the requirement that health care workers be vaccinated against COVID 19,” said Erik Steele, D.O., President of MMA. “The MMA sees this as a difficult but timely decision firmly based in a complete scientific understanding of the status of the epidemic, ready access for all health care workers to personal protective equipment, the ability of the health care industry to rapidly step up protective measures in the future if needed, and plenty of the anti-COVID medication Paxlovid available for higher risk patients. It is the constellation of these things that makes today’s decision possible.”

DHHS expects the rule to be published next Wednesday and to adopt the rule following public comment by the end of 2023. DHHS will exercise enforcement discretion regarding COVID-19 vaccination of health care workers during the rulemaking process. Health care providers remain free to implement COVID-19 vaccination requirements for their employees.

The State of Maine has long required the immunization of employees of designated health care facilities to reduce the risk of exposure to and transmission of vaccine-preventable diseases. 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.

For information on getting a COVID-19 vaccine, please visit or speak to your health care provider or pharmacist.