AUGUSTA — All health care workers across the state are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 1, Gov. Janet Mills announced today.

In an Aug. 12 media briefing, Mills said besides individuals employed by hospitals, nursing facilities, residential care facilities and intermediate care facilities for people with intellectual disabilities will also fall under this emergency rule. Further, EMS employees and people who work in dental practices will also be required to be fully vaccinated.

The new directive essentially adds the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required immunizations, including vaccines to prevent measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, hepatitis B and influenza, Mills said.

When asked if school nurses would fall under this rule, Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew of the Department of Health and Human Services said unless they are associated with a health care facility, they will not be required to be vaccinated. 

Lambrew said the state is using the “tools we have at our disposal to get our health care workers vaccinated,” and echoed Mills’ assertion that it was an addition to an already established battery of immunizations.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the goal of this effort is to protect health care workers and patients, and keep the health care system as a whole intact. 

Only medical exemptions will be allowed, Shah said, in keeping with an immunization protocol established for other required vaccinations. When asked about the outbreak at Waldo County General Hospital, he said as of yesterday, most of the staff members who had contracted the virus were unvaccinated.

WCGH spokesperson Jen Harris told The Republican Journal as of today the case count remains at eight staff members who have the virus. In addition, she said, they have not identified any evidence of spread of COVID-19 from an employee to a patient.

In a press release earlier this week, she said, “Although we have confirmed that several of our colleagues included in this investigation outbreak are fully vaccinated, unvaccinated employees have been disproportionally affected.”

In closing, Mills said health care workers serve the most vulnerable population and people have a right to expect these professionals to be fully vaccinated. 

For a list of free vaccination sites, visit  maine.gov/covid19/vaccines/vaccination-sites or call 1-888-445-4111.

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