Hundreds of protesters gathered Monday and Tuesday at the Maine State House to protest the state’s rule requiring healthcare workers to get vaccinated for the Chinese coronavirus.
Last week, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) issued an emergency rule requiring healthcare workers to get fully vaccinated for the Chinese coronavirus by October 1. That includes employees of hospitals, home health agencies, nursing facilities, residential care facilities, intermediate care facilities, and multi-level health care facilities licensed by the state, per the governor’s office.
“Vaccinations are the best tool we have to protect the lives and livelihoods of Maine people and to curb this pandemic,” Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) said in a statement at the time.
“Healthcare workers perform a critical role in protecting the health of Maine people, and it is imperative that they take every precaution against this dangerous virus, especially given the threat of the highly transmissible Delta variant,” she said, touting the vaccine requirement as a move “protecting health care workers, their patients, including our most vulnerable, and our health care capacity.”
However, protests erupted this week in opposition to the state’s move.
“This is going to be detrimental to the health care facilities around the state,” one protester, Nicole Drew, said. “We are already short-staffed in a lot of ways and this is just going to put another burden and pressure.”
The protest outside of the Maine State House had hundreds of people, including healthcare workers and Maine Republicans who joined them.
“To be clear, this is war!” State Rep. Laurel Libby (R) told the crowd, emphasizing that the mandates reflect a loss of individual liberty.
“Are we willing to lose our jobs? Are we willing to leave health care? Are we willing to walk out in a coordinated effort? That goes counter to everything I ever learned as a nurse,” she added.
“[Gov. Mills] is talking about keeping the hospitals empty. Well, good luck with that because we got to empty our building because we’re not going to have enough staff to take care of our residents,” Rhonda Murray, the director of nursing at Horizons Living & Rehabilitation Center, said.
While she said she, as well as a bulk of the staff, are vaccinated, Murray said she is adamantly opposed to the ultimatum the state is presenting of either getting vaccinated or losing their jobs.
Per Maine Public:
Several other Republican lawmakers attended the protest, which doubled as an organizing event for GOP activists as they seek to take control of the Legislature in 2022.
They included Rep. Heidi Sampson, of Alfred, who compared the vaccine requirement to the unethical and brutal practices of German doctors during the rise and fall of the Nazis.
Mills’ office has responded to the protests, dismissing the concerns of the demonstrators.
“The State of Maine has long required the immunization of employees of designated health care facilities to reduce the risk of exposure to, and possible transmission of, vaccine-preventable diseases,” Mills’ office said, citing immunizations for measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis B, and influenza:
This change simply adds the COVID-19 vaccine and is supported by a broad coalition of health care providers across Maine, including Maine Hospital Association, Maine Medical Association, Maine Primary Care Association, Maine Health Care Association, Maine Emergency Medical Services, and Maine Dental Association, along with the state’s two largest health systems, MaineHealth and Northern Light Health.
The statement failed to mention the fundamental concerns over the safety and both short-term and long-term side effects of the coronavirus vaccines. It also did not mention that none of the vaccines have been formally authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are operating under emergency use only.