A health care provider conducts COVID-19 testing in the parking lot of the Millinocket Regional Hospital's walk-in clinic in East Millinocket, Maine, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The first hospital in Maine to announce it was requiring that all staff be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 has now reached that goal. 

Millinocket Regional Hospital was a trailblazer in July when it announced that all staff would be required to be fully vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines six weeks after final approval by the Food and Drug Administration. 

On Tuesday, the hospital announced that it hit that 100 percent vaccination mark this past Saturday, just shy of two months after announcing the requirement. 

The hospital also reached the milestone nearly two weeks before a statewide vaccine mandate for health care workers takes effect on Oct. 1.

A number of health care providers, including nursing homes and other hospitals, have said they’ve lost workers who did not want to get vaccinated ahead of the state mandate. But a Millinocket Regional spokesperson said the hospital did not lose any staff to the mandate.

“It is no cliche; our local MRH staff have been true heroes throughout these dangerous times,” said CEO Robert Peterson. “They have put their lives on the line for all of us, and once again have demonstrated their commitment to safety by agreeing to be vaccinated.” 

Hospital leadership made a point of seeking out conversations with staff who were resistant to getting vaccinated so they could personally answer questions and address misinformation, Maine Public reported in July.

Millinocket Regional Hospital has hit the 100 percent vaccination milestone as Gov. Janet Mills’ statewide mandate faces challenges in both state and federal courts.

A national Christian organization filed a lawsuit against Mills and several of Maine’s largest health care organizations last month, pushing back against the inoculation requirement.  

The group, Liberty Counsel, said it was representing more than 2,000 health care workers and that a lack of a religious exemption in the mandate is a violation of federal law. 

Under Mills’ mandate, health care workers can seek a medical exemption. 

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Jon Levy heard oral arguments on Liberty Counsel’s request for a preliminary injunction to halt the rollout of the mandate. 

Earlier this month, a newly formed coalition that opposes the vaccine requirement filed a lawsuit in state court against top state officials to stop the policy before it takes effect. One of the groups in that coalition said it represented 2,500 health care workers, including 1,800 who said they were willing to be terminated if the vaccine mandate took effect.

Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is a reporter covering Old Town, Orono and the surrounding areas. A recent graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he's worked for Vermont Public Radio, The...