FARMINGTON – Beginning in October, all MaineHealth employees will be required to vaccinate against COVID-19 according to a statement released yesterday. The healthcare system is the largest private employer in Maine, with roughly 22,000 employees. As of last week, 83.8 percent of those employees were fully vaccinated, according to the release. The announcement comes several weeks after a system-wide pay increase aimed at filling some of the many vacant positions.
Some healthcare workers have already shown skepticism at the new mandate, but MaineHealth’s Chief Health Improvement Officer Dora-Anne Mills said it’s the right decision for the organization, and for the Maine community at large.
“We’re thinking about the people who are immunocompromised, the children and the elderly. We need to make sure they are surrounded by people who are vaccinated. We need this. Especially with the new variant,” she said.
None of the vaccines offered have received full FDA approval yet, but those approvals are expected to start rolling out in September. Since the vaccines became available to the public last July, 200 million citizens have received it with “no significant side effects” Mills said. The implementation and the aftereffects have been some of the most intensely monitored in US history.
Numerous health organizations across the United States are also implementing the mandate, including the majority of the top hospitals such as Yale and Mass General. Mills said requiring vaccines such as the COVID-19 vaccine, influenza, pertussis and chickenpox vaccines, is becoming an industry standard. MaineHealth began requiring the influenza vaccine last year in anticipation of the current situation. Of the 22,000 employees MaineHealth lost about 100, according to Mills, who were unhappy with the mandate. She said she isn’t worried about losing others who may opt to quit rather than face the mandate.
“People who work in healthcare usually believe in science and helping others- and this is just part of it. They go hand in glove,” she said.
Beginning today, Aug. 4, MaineHealth will also restart social distancing and mask-wearing mandates.
Bona fide medical and religious exemptions will be taken into consideration, the release stated.