The parent of Maine Medical Center joined dozens of hospitals and health systems across the country in requiring the vaccinations in August. Credit: Seth Koenig / BDN

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 percent 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.

Story by David Sharp and Patrick Whittle, Associated Press