A bid to block Maine’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers has ended after the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the challenge.
The case, John Does 1-3 v. Mills, 21-717, was filed on behalf of unnamed plaintiffs identified as healthcare workers in the state who objected to the COVID-19 vaccine on religious grounds.
“Maine’s categorical denial of religious exemptions for health-care workers who have bravely served as heroes for the last 18 months is an extreme outlier among the states,” wrote the Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal advocacy group representing the plaintiff, in court documents.
Attorneys representing Maine have argued the policy is religiously neutral and protects patients seeking care and those who can not get vaccinated. The defendants included Governor Janet T. Mills, Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne M. Lambrew, and Maine’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav D. Shah as well as Northern Light Health Foundation.
The court rejected an emergency intervention request from the same group of healthcare workers in October, the first time the court had the opportunity to weigh in on statewide vaccine mandates.
A federal judge had previously ruled the mandate was lawful and that “the record indicated regular testing alone wasn’t sufficient to stop the spread of the delta variant,” per CNBC.
At the time, three conservative justices dissented to the decision, which was supported by the six remaining justices.
The court had rejected a similar challenge to the mandate filed by healthcare workers seeking religious exemption in New York City.
In January, the court upheld a federal vaccine mandate created via executive order by President Joe Biden for healthcare workers at any facility accepting Medicare or Medicaid. The decision came as the justices moved to block a second executive order that mandated companies with more than 100 employees to enforce vaccine requirements or oblige workers to undergo regular COVID-19 testing.
Healthcare workers in Maine were given until Oct. 29 to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Governor Janet Mills said it was a necessary precaution for the industry given the state of the coronavirus pandemic.
The requirement was last changed from an emergency rule to a permanent requirement, per Reuters.
Healthcare workers in Maine can only request exemption from the COVID-19 mandate for medical reasons.