Maine DHHS Proposes Removing COVID-19 Vaccine From Health Care Worker Immunization Requirements

On July 11th, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced that it will propose removing the COVID-19 vaccine from the list of required immunizations for workers in health care facilities in response to evolving scientific evidence and trends.  
While COVID-19 vaccination remains an important tool to protect public health, the vaccination requirement for health care workers achieved the intended benefits of saving lives, protecting health care capacity, and limiting the spread of the virus in Maine during the height of the pandemic. Despite having the oldest population in the nation, Maine consistently rated among the top states in the country on vaccination and among the lowest on COVID-19 deaths. Maine currently ranks third on bivalent booster vaccination overall and first for those age 65 and older. Additionally, Maine health care professionals' strong culture of patient safety has limited risk of severe COVID-19 being spread among staff and patients. 
The Department filed the proposed rule change with the Secretary of State earlier this week.  This follows the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' (CMS) withdrawal of its requirement for COVID-19 vaccination of health care workers on June 6, 2023. Maine is among four remaining states with some type of COVID-19 vaccine requirement.  
DHHS expects the rule to be published next Wednesday and to adopt the rule following public comment by the end of 2023. DHHS will exercise enforcement discretion regarding COVID-19 vaccination of health care workers during the rulemaking process. Health care providers remain free to implement COVID-19 vaccination requirements for their employees.   
“MHCA commends the Mills Administration for continuing to respond to the latest data and updating COVID vaccine requirements accordingly,” said Angela Westhoff, President and CEO of MHCA. “The requirement achieved its intended goals and we fully support this change. Infections remain low and Maine has some of the highest vaccination rates for long-term care staff and residents. As the science evolves, we will continue to follow best practices for infection prevention and control and will promote ongoing efforts to educate our community about the many benefits of vaccines.”
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