Governor Janet Mills issued the following statement in response to Republicans in the State Legislature pushing to weaken the state’s requirement that health care workers be vaccinated against COVID-19, a position that is out of line with forthcoming Federal policy and not supported by the Maine Hospital Association, the Maine Health Care Association, and the majority of the state’s health systems:
“Republicans in Maine have done little to advance the state’s response to COVID-19. Throughout this pandemic, they have opposed nearly every public health measure proven to limit the spread of this dangerous and deadly virus. Now – as Maine people continue to get sick and die – Republicans want to weaken a requirement that health care workers protect people in their care by getting vaccinated against COVID-19, the same way they have to get vaccinated against other infectious diseases.
“Health care workers must take every precaution to protect themselves and those they serve. Regular testing is not nearly as effective at protecting peoples’ health as vaccination, which is why it is not a part of our policy and it is not a part of the forthcoming Federal policy requiring all health care workers to be vaccinated. It is also not supported by the Maine Hospital Association, MaineHealth, Northern Light Health, and MaineGeneral Health. If Republicans don’t want to listen to me, then they should listen to them.
“To say that Maine people will die as a result of expanded vaccination is repugnant, dishonest, and an insult to every Maine person who has lost their life to COVID-19, especially those who contracted the virus from a health care worker who was supposed to protect them but chose not to get vaccinated. It is, in fact, this policy, that will keep both health care workers and their patients alive.
“Now make no mistake: we will do everything within our power – and everything to protect public health – to ensure access to health services for Maine people if Central Maine Medical Center (CMMC) employees refuse to be vaccinated and leave their jobs. We will do everything within our power to address the serious workforce shortage that our state is confronting – a problem that Republicans failed to address over the last decade. In the meantime, I have directed the Department of Health and Human Services to continue working with CMMC, as well as surrounding hospitals, to support critical health services for residents of Central Maine. This is what we have done since taking office to address the hospital’s longstanding workforce and compliance-related issues.
“Getting vaccinated – which is the collective responsibility of Maine people and something that more than one million of us have done already – is the best and most effective way out of this pandemic. Republicans should stop playing politics with a pandemic, and, instead, use their voice to strengthen, not weaken, public health measures. Because if they actually want to protect the health and welfare of Maine people, then they would stand up and use their power as elected officials to tell people the truth —that the vaccine is safe, it is free, and that everyone – regardless of politics – should get vaccinated immediately. Doing anything else is an absolute abdication of leadership.”