WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court has rejected an urgent appeal by health workers in Maine to block a vaccine mandate that took effect on Friday.
Three conservative judges noted their disagreement. The state does not offer a religious exemption for workers in hospitals and nursing homes who risk losing their jobs if they are not vaccinated.
Only New York and Rhode Island also have vaccination mandates for health professionals who have no religious exceptions. Both are the subject of litigation, and a court in New York City allowed workers to claim religious exceptions at the time of the lawsuit.
The High Court had previously rejected Indiana University students and teachers in New York City who opposed the vaccination. Both the university and the city allow people to seek religious exceptions.
The request for Maine was made by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills. A federal judge in Maine rejected the termination of his term and ruled that the lawsuit was unlikely to succeed. The October 13 decision sparked a bunch of appeals that landed in the Supreme Court for the second time.
The Liberty Counsel, which filed the lawsuit, claimed to represent more than 2,000 health workers who do not want to be forced into vaccinations.
Dozens of health workers have decided to resign, and a hospital in Maine’s second-largest city has already restricted some admissions due to an “acute shortage” of nurses.
But most health professionals have met the requirements, and Maine residents generally support the vaccine. The Maine Hospital Association and other medical groups support the request.
Last week, Maine became the fourth country to reach the milestone of 70% of all people vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“These are the vaccines we all hoped for and prayed for a year ago,” Mills said. “We have them now and we should take full advantage of them.”