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Maine’s largest health system to require staff vaccinations

August 3, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — MaineHealth, the state’s largest health care provider, is going to make COVID-19 vaccinations a requirement for employment, mandating that 23,000 workers get vaccinated this fall, officials announced Tuesday.

The parent of Maine Medical Center joined dozens of hospitals and health systems across the country in requiring the vaccinations.

The coronavirus delta variant that’s sweeping across the country makes it imperative for staff to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others, said Dr. Dora Anne Mills, chief health improvement officer of MaineHealth.

“With the delta variant, we’re seeing a surge across the country. We are seeing an increase in COVID cases, and hospitalizations, and deaths,” she said.

MaineHealth becomes the first system with a hard deadline for staffers to be vaccinated. The new policy goes into effect on Oct. 1, officials said.

Nearly 84% of workers had been vaccinated as of late last month, and most of the remainder are expected to be vaccinated, Mills said. Last year, the hospital mandated the flu vaccine and only a handful of employees balked, she said.

Patients are increasingly demanding that their healthcare providers be vaccinated, and it makes sense for care givers to take the step to protect vulnerable patients and those who are too young to get vaccinated.

“One of the big reasons to get vaccinated is to help yourself, but also to help others,” Mills said.

The announcement came a day after another large healthcare network, Northern Light Health, announced that staff must be vaccinated against COVID-19 once the vaccines are fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Last week, Millinocket Regional Hospital became the first to announce a vaccination requirement. It’s requiring staff to be fully vaccinated with either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines within six weeks of final FDA approval.

In other pandemic news:

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DON’T BE ANGRY

The head of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention used a radio appearance to call on residents to set aside anger and fear as the state battles a resurgence of the coronavirus.

Maine has had more success than many states in controlling COVID-19, but cases have been rising in recent weeks. Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah told Maine Public on Monday that it’s a good idea to “cast aside the anger and fear” about the rising cases and work together.

Shah said vaccinated residents could help by sharing their experience of getting the coronavirus vaccine with those who are hesitant. He said that could help with “personalizing the discussion” and compel holdouts in a way that raw numbers do not.

The state recorded its 900th death from the virus in recent days.

In other pandemic news in Maine:

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THE NUMBERS

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 36.57 new cases per day on July 18 to 79.71 new cases per day on Aug. 1.

The AP is using data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering to measure outbreak caseloads and deaths across the United States.

The Maine CDC reported there have been more than 70,000 cases of the virus in the state since the start of the pandemic.