Supreme Court won't block vaccine mandate for Maine health care workers

The Supreme Court on Tuesday left intact a vaccine requirement for Maine health care workers, rebuffing another legal challenge targeting COVID-19 vaccination mandates.

The denial by Justice Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerOvernight Health Care — Feds, military top 90 percent vaccine rate Massachusetts hospital workers seek Supreme Court relief from vaccine mandate Supreme Court grapples with excluding Puerto Rico from federal benefits program MORE, who handles emergency requests from Maine, was issued “without prejudice,” meaning the applicants can file another request if circumstances change.

The challengers, a group of Maine health care workers, sought to block a vaccine requirement announced in August by Gov. Janet MillsJanet MillsMaine voters reject 0M transmission line for hydropower imports from Canada Supreme Court rejects Maine health workers' challenge to vaccine mandate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Democrats optimistic after Biden meetings MORE (D). The statewide mandate, which applies to employees at hospitals, nursing homes and other health facilities, is set to take effect next week.

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The suit was brought by a Christian group called Liberty Counsel, which said it represented some 2,000 employees opposed to the mandate on religious grounds. Although medical exceptions to Maine's vaccine requirement are recognized, religious exemptions are not.

A federal judge in Maine last week ruled against Liberty Counsel. Two days later, a Boston-based federal appeals court in a brief ruling affirmed the district judge, prompting the group’s emergency request to the Supreme Court.

Breyer said the group could again seek relief at the Supreme Court if the appeals court either rules against it on the merits or fails to reach a decision by Oct. 29, the effective date for the vaccine requirement.

Tuesday’s move comes after the Supreme Court rebuffed similar vaccine mandate challenges by New York City public school teachers and a group of students at Indiana University.