PORTLAND, Maine — Health care workers in Maine must be fully vaccinated by October 1. However, if they're going to do it with the now fully FDA-approved Pfizer vaccine, they have a much closer deadline to hit.
This Friday, August 27, is the last day a health care worker can receive a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and be fully vaccinated by October 1.
Remember, "fully vaccinated" implies it has been two weeks since someone received their second vaccine dose.
For the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the deadline is September 17. The window to receive the first dose of Moderna passed on August 20.
Central Maine Medical Center travel nurse Andrea Dyer was vaccinated the last December.
"I saw what the COVID virus was doing first hand to patients and it was horrible and it was terrifying and that was ultimately what went into my decision to get the COVID vaccine," Dyer said.
For Dyer, the decision was about protecting her patients and her loved ones.
"Ultimately, it was about protecting my grandmother and protecting my nephew who has asthma," Dyer said.
More health care workers have been getting vaccinated since the mandate was announced, according to Maine Health's Dr. Dora Mills.
Dr. Mills said, "What we've been having is a lot of one on one conversations and we've been trying to address the issues and concerns they have."
Dr. Mills said vaccine mandates for health care workers are nothing new. "They're already vaccinated against measles, mumps, hepatitis B, and influenza. So this mandate simply adds another vaccine to the requirements."
According to the most recent CDC data from July 31, just over 80% of hospital workers in Maine have been vaccinated.
Maine General Medical Assistant Olivia Turner is among the 20% who haven't.
"I am not going to get the vaccine. I am very firm in my belief," Turner said.
For Turner, the decision comes down to concerns over side effects and general opposition to government mandates. With that in mind, she has been prepared for this mandate since May.
"When I started hearing there was going to be a push for mandates, you just hear it through the grapevine being in healthcare, I started a cleaning business."
When the mandate goes into effect, Turner plans to run the cleaning business full time. However, she's leaving medicine with a heavy heart.
"When I wear scrubs, I'm proud of what I do. When I am taking care of patients, we all have it in us, people who work in healthcare, we love what we do and there's not another job like it," Turner said.
Online and at anti-mandate rallies, Turner said she's heard from many others who also plan to leave the medical field.
"From what we've seen, they're not going to cave," Turner said.
According to the press release for Governor Mills' office, the state mandate for health care workers to be vaccinated applies to "people who work in health care settings, issued an emergency rule that will require health care workers to be fully vaccinated by October 1, 2021. This timeframe provides health care workers the next five weeks to receive their needed shots."