SCOTUS Denies Appeal To Maine's Vaccine Mandate...

For the second time, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an emergency appeal from health care workers in Maine to block the vaccine mandate that went into effect Friday. The state does not allow hospital and nursing home workers to opt out of COVID-19 shots for religious reasons. Nine unnamed workers sued the state in August to demand such an exemption, and the case quickly moved up to the nation’s top court.

The decision on Friday was not unanimous, and three conservative justices wrote a lengthy dissent that took the side of the plaintiffs. But the mandate cleared a significant legal hurdle.

“This rule protects health care workers, their patients and the stability of our health care system in the face of this dangerous virus,” Gov. Janet Mills said in a statement Friday night. “Just as vaccination defeated smallpox and vaccination defeated polio, vaccination is the way to defeat COVID-19.”

The health care workers, who are represented by the conservative group Liberty Counsel, will still try to get the Supreme Court to hear the underlying case.

“This case is far from over,” Mat Staver, the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said in a news release. “We will file a petition with the Supreme Court to review the merits of the case after full briefing and argument. The High Court’s decision to not grant the emergency relief is not a ruling on the merits.”

Their appeal is the first challenge to a statewide mandate that has reached the Supreme Court. The justices previously turned away students at Indiana University and teachers in New York City who objected to being vaccinated. Both the university and city allow people to seek religious exemptions.

In Maine, the case has tested the state law that repealed religious or philosophical exemptions for required inoculations for students and health care workers. This year, Mills added the COVID-19 vaccine to those already required for health care workers, which include shots against chicken pox and the common flu. Only medical exemptions are allowed.

The governor’s office has estimated that her mandate will apply to more than 150,000 workers at hospitals, clinics, group and nursing homes, dental offices, EMS agencies and other state-licensed health care facilities.

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