A health care worker with pale skin and short, dark hair in a blue shirt and white medical gloves hold a syringe. The person is wearing a pale blue mask. They are pictured in a tan-walled hospital room, with trays and computers in the background.
The coronavirus vaccine is prepared at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, which began immunizing frontline staff members who care for COVID-19 patients in December of 2020. Credit: Courtesy of Northern Light Health

PORTLAND, Maine — The deadline for Maine to begin enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers arrived on Friday.

Northern Light Health announced that unvaccinated workers would no longer be working at its 10 hospitals as of Saturday. In Lewiston, Central Maine Medical Center is already in compliance, meaning unvaccinated staff members aren’t allowed to work.

MaineHealth, the state’s largest health care provider, said Friday was the last day for workers to submit paperwork showing compliance with the requirement. Those who do not comply will be terminated.

Andy Mueller, CEO of MaineHealth, has said he expects to lose 1.5 percent to 2 percent of staff systemwide but that those losses would be offset by fewer COVID-19-related absences.

“We actually think we’re going to have more capability and less shortages in a real way by ensuring our workforce is vaccinated,” he said this week.

The vaccine mandate imposed by the administration of Democratic Gov. Janet Mills requires hospital and nursing home workers to get vaccinated or risk losing their jobs. The state announced it would begin enforcing the mandate Friday.

A lawsuit attacking the requirement was still pending with the U.S. Supreme Court. The Liberty Counsel, which filed the lawsuit, claimed to represent more than 2,000 health care workers who don’t want to be forced to be vaccinated.

State agencies vowed to work with hospitals and nursing homes individually to address staffing issues that might arise from workers who lose their jobs rather than get vaccinated.