Supreme Court rejects ban on vaccines for Maine health workers

The Supreme Court on Friday refused to block Maine’s request for health care workers to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, even though it does not contain a religious exemption.

Judges Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, dismissed, Saying they were going to stop delegation. Two other governors on the court, Amy Connie Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh, said they agreed that the case should not be heard by the court, because it came on an emergency appeal without the benefit of a full briefing.

Maine’s order applies to health care workers in hospitals, nursing homes and doctors’ offices, and went into effect Friday. State officials say most of those covered have complied.

Maine has allowed religious exemptions in the past for health care workers, daycare employees, school children, and college students. But the state eliminated all non-medical vaccination exemptions in 2019. It said lower vaccination rates were causing infectious diseases to spread more quickly.

A group of health care workers sued when a Covid-19 vaccine was required, saying they objected because the vaccine was developed with the help of “embryonic cell lines that originated in elective abortions”. The law forced them to decide “what is more important to them – their firm religious beliefs or their ability to work anywhere in their state so that they can feed their families.”

None of the Covid-19 vaccines contain fetal cells, according to published data on their formulation. During the testing phases of their vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer used replicated cell lines from embryonic cells taken 50 years ago. Johnson & Johnson used a different cell line in some stages of production of its vaccine.

State attorneys told the court that Maine does not practice religious discrimination, because the law applies to all health care workers and is not intended to restrict any particular religious practice. “The goal of the latest rule amendment is to prevent the spread of Covid-19 among health care workers in high-risk settings, protect patients and individuals from illness and death, and protect the health care system in Maine.”

As for the current pandemic, “most health care facility outbreaks in Maine are the result of bringing Covid-19 health care workers into the facility,” the state told the Supreme Court.

Judge Gorsuch, writing to the three dissidents, said the state does not treat all health care workers equally, because those with a medical objection can refuse to take the vaccine, while those with religious objections cannot.

“Health care workers who have served on the front lines of the pandemic for the past 18 months are now being fired and their practices closed. All because they uphold their constitutionally protected religious beliefs. Their plight deserves our attention,” he said.

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