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Lawmakers hear testimony on bills aimed at lifting COVID-19 vaccine requirements

On Monday, the Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony on six bills targeting various COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Lawmakers in the Maine Legislature's Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services heard testimony on multiple bills aimed at lifting vaccine mandates and blocking future mandates from taking effect.

"Now is the time to be looking back and evaluating what worked, and what didn't," Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, said. 

Brakey is proposing one of the six bills before the committee on Monday. Brakey's bill looks to create guiding public health principles for how the state should respond to future infectious diseases, including considering overall public health, compared to concerns raised by one virus.

"We've got to not just measure their effect on the one virus we're aiming at, but we've got measure all of the unintended consequences and harms done to society from universal lockdowns," Brakey said. 

The bills discussed Monday aim to help reinstate health care and EMS workers who lost jobs to vaccine requirements and limit future mandates.

The six bills heard by the Health and Human Services Committee regarding vaccinations include the following:

LD 59: An Act to Prohibit Inclusion of the COVID-19 Vaccine in the Universal Childhood Immunization Program.

LD 172: An Act to Allow Health Care Workers to Return to Work by Reinstating Exemptions from Immunization Requirements.

LD 601: An Act to Reduce the Shortage of Municipal Emergency Medical Services Personnel by Removing Certain Vaccination Requirements.

LD 1382: An Act to Establish the Guiding Public Health Principles of Focused Protection for Pandemics of a Highly Infectious Respiratory Disease.

LD 1547: An Act to Temporarily Prohibit the State from Mandating COVID-19 Vaccinations.

LD 1598: An Act to Allow an Exception to Immunization Requirements for Health Care Workers for Vaccines Approved Under Emergency Use Authorization.

"To get kicked off, it just felt like a personal injury," Lori Dobson said. 

Dobson testified before the committee Monday in support of the bills. Dobson said she was fired from her role as an EMT on Cranberry Island due to the state's vaccine requirement for EMS workers. 

"We need to give the people that are just scattered all over Maine and elsewhere the chance to return to the jobs they worked so hard to get," Dobson said. 

Some, however, are pushing back on the proposed bills.

"These six bills would undermine our progress in protecting Maine people. They sow doubt in our public health system, sow distrust in science and modern medicine, and sow doubt in the professionals we rely on to keep our communities safe. These bills are based on misinformation about vaccines," Northe Saunders with Maine Families for Vaccines testified. 

"The vast benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccination far outweigh any of the unfounded claims that have been put forth regarding reproductive harm. Prohibiting COVID-19 vaccination requirements would do a great disservice to the citizens of Maine," Ann Farmer, associate director of the Division of Disease Surveillance at the Maine CDC, said.

A committee work session on the proposed bills will be scheduled in the coming days.

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