Maine health care workers appeal to Supreme Court after federal court upholds state’s vaccine mandate

The mandate is set to go into force on October 29 and the workers argue that the mandate violates their sincerely held religious beliefs and offers no religious exemptions.

Late Tuesday, a federal appeals court denied a request to block the mandate.

A panel of judges on the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals said that the state is “particularly vulnerable” to Covid-19 because it has the largest share of residents aged 65 and older in the country.

Maine, the appeals court wrote, “faced a severe crisis in its healthcare facilities when the delta variant hit.”

Maine does allow an exemption that applies if a doctor has certified that a vaccine “may be medically inadvisable,” but it has mandated health care workers be vaccinated against certain contagious diseases since 1989. It has not allowed religious exemptions since April 2020.

The filing marks the health care workers’ second trip to the Supreme Court.

Before the appeals court ruled, the workers made a similar request to the court. Justice Stephen Breyer — who has jurisdiction over the 1st Circuit — denied the request, but he made clear the workers could come back after a federal appeals court had the chance to weigh in on the case, which it did Wednesday.

In prior cases, justices have declined attempts to block a New York City school vaccine mandate, as well as an effort to block Indiana University’s vaccine mandate.

This story has been updated with the Supreme Court appeal.

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