SCOTUS Won’t Stop Maine Vaccine Mandates for Health Workers


  • The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to hear an emergency appeal of vaccine requirements for Maine health care workers.
  • The high court has previously rejected a challenge to a vaccine mandate for New York City teachers.
  • Vaccine mandates have been challenged across the country over the pandemic.

The US Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to stop a state-imposed COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers in Maine that’s expected to take effect next week. 

The high court declined to hear an emergency appeal of the Maine vaccine requirement. The order was handed down by Justice Stephen Breyer, a Democratic appointee assigned to the First Circuit, which covers Maine.

It’s not the first time the court has rejected challenges to vaccine mandates. Earlier this month, Democratic-appointed Justice Sonia Sotomayor refused to hear an emergency appeal from public school teachers opposed to a vaccine requirement in New York City.

Likewise, former President Donald Trump’s latest appointee, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, chose not to block a vaccine requirement for students and staff at Indiana University in August. 

The Maine case is the first time the Supreme Court considered a statewide vaccine mandate. Democratic Gov. Janet Mills announced on September 2 that she will begin enforcing the requirement to health care workers on October 29, allowing them more time to get their shots against coronavirus. The decision was backed by major health care organizations in the state.

“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 at the time.

A national religious organization, Liberty Counsel, sued Mills and other Maine officials in an effort to block the mandate. The group said it represented over 2,000 health care workers in the state who don’t want to be obliged to get vaccinated.

A federal judge rejected the lawsuit and later, a federal appeals court affirmed the ruling. Liberty Counsel then filed an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court, which denied to hear it on Tuesday.

Most health care workers in Maine have complied with getting vaccinated, according to the Associated Press.

There is longstanding Supreme Court precedent that allows state governments to impose vaccine requirements. The right was upheld in 1905, when the court decided Massachusetts can require vaccines against smallpox.

Still, opponents of vaccine mandates have sought to challenge requirements being imposed in states across the country to combat the coronavirus pandemic. National and state lawmakers, mainly Republican, have heavily criticized mandates as an infringement of personal liberties. 

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