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Republicans call on UMaine System to drop vaccine mandate

Five state lawmakers are asking the University of Maine System to follow the state's community colleges and stop mandating COVID-19 vaccines.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Republicans on Maine's education committee are calling on the University of Maine System to drop its COVID-19 vaccine requirement, similar to the move the Maine Community College System made earlier this year.

"I think it's important that the UMaine System be open and honest with incoming students," Sen. James Libby, R-Cumberland, said.

Libby is just one of the five Republican lawmakers who sit on the state's education committee who are now asking the University of Maine System to stop requiring students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend any of the system's eight schools.

"What they're currently doing is they're taking the religious exemption and they're saying to students, 'Oh yeah we can let you in but you have to go through your religious exemption,'" Libby said.

The Republicans' letter to the UMaine System comes about a week after the state's community college system voted to drop its requirement. The system voted unanimously in favor of stopping the requirement last month, but wrote in a statement it will still "strongly encourage all learners to receive the COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters."

Libby said UMaine should follow the community college system's lead.

"I think they've made a good decision, I think it was a difficult decision. Nobody's saying they should have rushed into this decision," he said.

In an email, the University of Maine System said its current vaccine mandate runs through the end of the semester and it will follow guidance from the CDC moving forward.

UMaine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy wrote in a statement, "We will be watching our partners at the Community College system as they make these changes in their vaccine policies, but at this point, we are not prepared to change ours."

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