Health care workers sue Mills and state, seeking to reverse vaccine mandate


Well being care employees in Maine filed a class-action lawsuit towards the state, the governor and main Maine well being networks Wednesday, arguing that the state’s requirement that well being care employees be vaccinated towards COVID-19 tramples on their spiritual freedoms.

The lawsuit additionally asks a federal decide in Bangor to impose a short lived order stopping the mandate from going into impact. Since Gov. Janet Mills introduced the requirement underneath a state statute earlier this month, some well being care employees have voiced vehement opposition, packing public conferences and mounting public demonstrations towards the requirement.

The prospect of well being care employees quitting or being fired by the Oct. 1 deadline locations added stress on already-taxed well being care methods in Maine that have been already harassed by COVID protocols, and among the many already-dwindling ranks of small-town emergency medical employees, a few of whom haven’t been vaccinated.

Along with Mills, the lawsuit names state Middle for Illness Management and Prevention director Dr. Nirav Shah, Well being and Human Providers Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew, and well being care suppliers Maine Well being, Genesis Healthcare, Northern Gentle Well being Basis, and Maine Normal Well being. To win a short lived halt to the requirement, the plaintiffs should present that they’re prone to succeed on the deserves of the case, and that in balancing the pursuits at hand, stopping the mandate is within the public’s curiosity.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Courtroom in Bangor, was introduced by a Florida-based group, Liberty Counsel, which advocates for the rights of Christian Individuals and opposes actions they imagine curtail spiritual freedom or contradict Christian beliefs, together with a girl’s proper to an abortion, using fetal tissue in medical analysis and the fitting of same-sex {couples} to marry, in keeping with the Southern Poverty Legislation Middle, which classifies Liberty Counsel as a hate group.

Liberty Counsel is headquartered in Orlando and was based by a former dean of Liberty College, the fundamentalist Christian college based by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, and has shut ties to the establishment’s regulation college, in keeping with the Southern Poverty Legislation Middle.

There are not any named plaintiffs within the lawsuit, however the motion was introduced on behalf of 9 people whose requests for spiritual exemptions to the vaccination requirement have been rejected, in addition to 2,000 different unnamed healthcare employees. In at the very least one case, one plaintiff was fired from her job at Genesis Healthcare when she did not get a vaccine by an Aug. 23 deadline, the lawsuit alleges.

The well being care employees’ objections are rooted in scripture, their attorneys wrote, and within the broad principal of rejecting any drugs or process developed with or aided by way of fetal tissue, and due to this fact abortion.

The lawsuit additionally argues that the Maine statute underneath which Mills issued the mandate is unconstitutional and flouts the constitutional proper of free train of faith and federal civil rights regulation. State statute can not usurp federal regulation, attorneys for the group argue.

Mills’s workplace deferred remark to the Legal professional Normal’s Workplace, which shall be defending towards the go well with. However in earlier feedback, Mills has not backed away from the requirement, which has the backing of practically each main group representing healthcare organizations within the state.

The elimination of spiritual exemptions for vaccination necessities in Maine predates the pandemic – it was handed into regulation in 2019 and goes into impact Sept. 1. The measure was initially designed to guard college kids from outbreaks of preventable infectious ailments, like measles or mumps, however the statute has taken on new significance throughout the pandemic and amid widespread skepticism of the COVID vaccines. Republicans have vowed to introduce laws to overturn the regulation, which additionally survived a poll measure final yr that sought to reverse it.

In a press release, Legal professional Normal Aaron Frey pointed to a dedication by public well being specialists that the COVID-19 vaccine, like many different required vaccinations for well being care employees, will stop the unfold of a communicable illness, which is critical to guard sufferers and the well being care community statewide.

Earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare employees have been required to be immunized towards two types of measles, mumps, rooster pox, Hepatitis B and influenza.

Vaccination necessities have been in place for years, Frey mentioned, and haven’t been challenged earlier than. Federal courts and the Supreme Courtroom have constantly upheld vaccination necessities elsewhere, most lately in a case the place Supreme Courtroom Justice Amy Coney Barrett, whose Christian beliefs and id turned a central level in her affirmation hearings, declined to cease Indiana College from requiring college students to be vaccinated towards COVID-19.

“For a few years the state has required well being care employees to be vaccinated towards varied communicable ailments and, to our information, that requirement has by no means been challenged,” Frey mentioned. “The state has now merely added a further illness – COVID-19 – to the listing of ones for which well being care employees should be vaccinated.”

The well being care employees argue they’re blissful to observe different pointers designed to cease the unfold of COVID-19, together with carrying facial coverings, submitting to testing and reporting necessities, and monitoring and reporting of signs, all of that are “affordable situations that have been adequate to allow them to do their jobs for the final 18 months with no questions requested,” the employees’ attorneys argue.

“The Governor, by means of her COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate, has created a two-tiered system of exemptions, and positioned spiritual beliefs and those that maintain them in a category much less favorable than different exemptions that Defendants are completely prepared to simply accept,” the go well with argues.

“In actual fact, final yr the State mentioned Plaintiffs have been heroes due to their willingness to abide by the identical situations and necessities that Plaintiffs are prepared to abide by now.”

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