On July 11, 2023, nearly two years after the initial announcement of the covid vaccine requirement for healthcare workers, Maine State DHHS issued a press release. In the release, DHHS explained that they planned to move forward with a full repeal of the covid vaccine requirement for healthcare workers, while also lowkey defending their decision to issue one to begin with of course. However, buried in the middle of this press release, we found one paragraph in particular quite interesting.
For anyone that does not know, DHHS did initially try to include Maine EMS in their rule change back in 2021. They were not successful. Because they were not successful, Maine EMS seemingly worked quietly to issue their own rule change, more than six months later, in mid-2022. Yet, in their decision to repeal, DHHS also felt it important enough to inform the people of Maine that they would be “presenting information” to the Maine EMS Board so they could also consider repealing.
This would be quite interesting on its own, all things considered. What makes it more interesting is that the State’s Attorney assigned to our case actually took time to contact us via our Attorney just to make sure we had seen and read the press release. When our Attorney informed her that we had, she insisted that we must be all done, right? Surely, we weren’t thinking of continuing on with our lawsuit, right!? But stubborn is our superpower and so our Attorney explained that yes, in fact, we would be moving forward. That in our opinion, regardless of a Maine EMS repeal, the issue at hand was whether Maine EMS has such authority in the first place. Take note by the way, that the paragraph in question literally concludes with “The Board has the authority to make its own determination about the EMS vaccination requirement.”
Well, no one can say the State is subtle!
Maine EMS met on August 2, 2023. A representative from DHHS did present “new” information as promised, the EMS board deliberated, went into executive session to “discuss litigation”, but ultimately the Board voted 8-3 to not move to repeal. Instead, they sent the rule to their “rules committee”.
The “Rules Committee” is a fairly interesting concept. It is a sub-committee charged with the task of reviewing rules and then making recommendations to the broader Maine EMS Board. The committee is made up of a handful of Board members.
Members of the Maine EMS Board
Members of the Rules Committee
On September 6, 2023, the Maine EMS Board met again, and again the Board discussed the Chapter 21 covid vaccine requirements. Rather than simply repealing Chapter 21 altogether however, complicated- and confusing- amendments were put forward.
- Repeal current Covid-19 Vaccine requirements
- Keep the upcoming flu vaccine requirement
- Add an exception to the flu shot requirements that allows for responders to agree to mask from October to March- annually
- Add an exception to all vaccine requirements for ambulance drivers
- Add three additional vaccine requirements: MMR, TDaP, and Varicella
Multiple Dept. Chiefs submitted comment again asking the Board to repeal Chapter 21 and allow providers to make their own decisions. During discussion, some interesting interactions took place. Chris Whytock suggested exploring other steps that could also be taken to protect patients, such as sending sick staff home. To which Dr. Sholl spoke up in response and brushed that ridiculous idea off! However, Dr. Sholl supported the idea of adding additional vaccine requirements- in the interest of public safety and all that.
You really can’t make this stuff up.
At the end of the meeting the Board voted in favor of the proposed changes, and the new version of Chapter 21 went out for public comment which just closed on 10/20/2023. Copies of the meeting minutes for the August and September meetings below for anyone interested in reading through them. Continue to check back, as we continue to update you all as this situation and our case progresses.