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Federal appeals court in Boston won’t block Maine vaccine mandate for health care workers

The federal appeals court in Boston said Friday that it would not step in and issue an emergency order blocking the start of a vaccine mandate for health care workers in Maine.

The administration Governor Janet Mills has vowed to enforce the vaccine mandate for workers at hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities on Oct. 29, having publicly announced that deadline on Oct. 1.

“My goal is that every health care worker in Maine is vaccinated. Anyone who is placed in the care of a health care worker has the right to expect – as do their families – that they will receive high-quality, safe care from fully vaccinated staff,” Mills said in a statement.

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In a single sentence, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit refused to order a halt to the vaccine mandate on an emergency basis.

“The appellants’ emergency motion for an injunction pending appeal is denied,” the court wrote.

Friday was the last day a worker can get vaccinated, quarantine for two weeks, and meet the Oct. 29 deadline, according to the Bangor Daily News.

The request for the emergency ban came after US District Court Judge Jon Levy on Wednesday ruled that eight health care workers and one health care facility did not meet the legal standard they needed to halt the Mills administration’s plan.

The judge did find that the plaintiffs’ “refusal to be vaccinated based on their religious beliefs has resulted or will result in real hardships as it relates to their jobs. They have not, however, been prevented from staying true to their professed religious beliefs which, they claim, compel them to refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” Levy wrote.

Moreover, none of the arguments they advanced overpowered the government’s responsibility to protect public health, according to the court.

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“Neither have they seriously challenged the compelling governmental interest in mandating vaccinations for Maine’s healthcare workers, nor have they demonstrated that, as they contend, the vaccine mandate was motivated by any improper animus toward religion,” the judge wrote.



John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.