Billie Jo Davis, right, and her son Waylon protest at Monument Park in Houlton against the vaccine mandate for Maine Healthcare Workers. Credit: Alexander MacDougall / Houlton Pioneer Times

PORTLAND, Maine — There will be no state unemployment benefits for health care workers who are fired for refusing to get employer-mandated vaccinations against COVID-19, state officials said Thursday.

Already, a small number of workers have quit rather than be fully vaccinated ahead of the deadline at month’s end.

“Refusing to comply with an employer’s policies, including a health or safety policy, typically disqualifies a person from being eligible to receive unemployment benefits,” Jessica Picard, spokesperson for the Maine Department of Labor, said Thursday.

But each unemployment application will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, she said, leaving the door open to exceptions.

A federal judge declined Wednesday to halt the governor’s mandate that most health care workers be fully vaccinated. The state said it will begin enforcing the rule on Oct. 29.

Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston already began curtailing admissions and closed one department because of a staffing shortage linked to the vaccine requirement.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said the vaccine mandate alone isn’t causing the workforce shortages. She noted that all businesses are facing shortages during the pandemic.

State agencies will work with individual hospitals and nursing homes “to address individual workforce issues,” Mills said.

Mills announced the vaccine mandate on Aug. 12 for hospitals, nursing homes, dental practices and shelters. There’s a medical exemption but there are no religious or philosophical exemptions.

David Sharp, Associated Press. Associated Press writer Patrick Whittle contributed to this report.