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Health

MaineHealth Will Require COVID-19 Vaccination For All Staff By October

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Maine's largest employer announced Tuesday that it will require all of its workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19. MaineHealth is the third health care system to announce that vaccination will be required as a condition of employment. But unlike other organizations, it's not waiting for FDA to grant full approval.

With few exceptions, all MaineHealth staff are required to be vaccinated as of October 1. Chief health improvement officer Dr. Dora Anne Mills says the health system isn't waiting for FDA approval because there's ample evidence the vaccines are safe.

"Ya know the clinical trials started just about a year ago. And meanwhile there've been 200 million Americans who've received these vaccines under the most intense vaccine monitoring in history. And they've been shown again and again to be safe and effective," Mills says.

And time is of the essence, says Mills, because the Delta variant is causing a surge of cases across the country. Here in Maine, the seven-day average for new cases is 92. At the beginning of July, it was 14. Of MaineHealth's 23,000 employees, nearly 84% are already vaccinated. But Mills says that number needs to be higher - to protect staff, patients, and others- especially those who are immuno-compromised and children who can't yet get the vaccine. Mills, who is the sister of Governor Janet Mills, doesn't expect MaineHealth will lose staff over the requirement.

"Ya know, we've literally heard from people who've said, ya know, if this gets mandated, I'll go and get the vaccine," Mills says.

Two other health systems - Millinocket Regional Hospital and Northern Light Health - have already announced staff must be vaccinated. Their requirements go into effect once the FDA gives full approval.