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Few Northern Light Health Workers Have Quit Over Vaccine Mandate, Officials Say

Hollie Maloney
Robert F. Bukaty
Hollie Maloney, a pharmacy technician, loads a syringe with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, at the Portland Expo vaccine clinic run by Northern Light Mercy Hospital.

There has been some loud opposition to the vaccine mandate that will take effect for all Maine health care workers exactly a month from now.

But at least one large hospital system says that the number of employees quitting over the mandate is so far small.

About two dozen of the roughly 12,000 workers at Northern Light Health have said they'll leave their jobs rather than get the shots, according to chief human resources officer Paul Bolin.

During a news conference on Wednesday, Bolin said that many more of the organization's workers have had to leave work during surges of COVID-19 because they became sick or had to quarantine. He said that the unvaccinated holdouts will remain "incredibly susceptible to becoming ill" from the highly contagious delta variant.

Like many health care groups, Northern Light is making the case to its unvaccinated staff about the safety and effectiveness of the shots. It runs 10 hospitals from Portland to Presque Isle, as well as clinics and a home care organization.

Bolin says that Northern Light was able to vaccinate almost 10% of its employees between late July and the end of August.

"In that five and a half week span, we vaccinated about 1,200 of our staff and we continue to vaccinate more every day," he said.

Bolin says 88% of Northern Light’s workers have now been vaccinated — up from 82% around the time Gov. Janet Mills announced the mandate three weeks ago — and he expects a good chunk of the remaining 12% to get the shots before October.

The organization is offering workers either the single-shot Johnson and Johnson or the two-dose Pfizer vaccines. But if they choose the two-dose, Bolin says they might have to miss a few days of work after the mandate takes effect on Oct. 1.