A legislative committee voted along party lines Thursday against a proposal to prohibit COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

The Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee voted 7-5 against the bill, with majority Democrats effectively ending any chance of passage in the full Legislature. The bill sponsored by Rep. Tracy Quint, R-Hodgdon, originally aimed to prohibit COVID-19 vaccination mandates for five years.

Quint’s bill said more time was needed to study potential reproductive harm, even though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection and other experts have found no evidence that the vaccines cause such problems. The U.S. CDC recommends the vaccine for women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, as well as their partners.

An amended version presented to the committee would have prohibited COVID-19 mandates on health care workers. But Quint said that was too narrow and she intended the bill to be broader. Her goal was to prevent COVID-19 vaccinations from being mandated for children in schools and for state employees.

Quint acknowledged that private employers have a right to require workers to be vaccinated and that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld mandates for health care workers. She said her bill was solely targeting state-level mandates.

“Some of the concerns were parents making sure the vaccine is not mandated for school – this is huge,” Quint said. “Also state workers have contacted me. They’re concerned state workers would be mandated as well.”

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All five Republicans on the committee support the bill. Republicans also have been fighting vaccine mandates nationwide.

Ten states have banned vaccine mandates for state workers, six have banned mandates for health care workers and two have banned them for private employers, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy.

Rep. Michael Lemelin, R-Chelsea, argued in support of the moratorium, questioning the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines, especially over the long term. He said vaccinations should be optional.

“You want the vaccine, take it. If it makes you feel great (and) comfortable, great,” Lemelin said. “But I don’t think the vaccinated people are all that comfortable, because every single person in the grocery store that I see wearing masks are all vaccinated people. Everyone living in fear in Maine are the vaccinated people. The unvaccinated people aren’t living in fear.”

While fully vaccinated people can still be infected with COVID-19 and transmit it to others, vaccines have proven highly effective at reducing the severity of disease and preventing people from lengthy hospital stays or death.

Hospital officials and Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, have said in recent weeks that about 70 percent of people hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated and the percentage is higher for those in critical care or hooked up to ventilators. Shah also has said an unvaccinated person is eight times more likely to be hospitalized with the disease and 14 times more likely to die.

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Sen. Joseph Baldacci, D-Bangor, rejected Lamelin’s claims, saying that he is fully vaccinated and not living in fear.

“I’m going around knowing I have a high level of protection,” he said.

Baldacci said the bill would be “bad law” that would tie the hands of medical professionals in the middle of a pandemic.

“I’m not voting to impose a mandate on anyone,” he said. “What I’m voting against is hamstringing medical professionals over the next five years when the science is changing admittedly. I’m not going to put medical providers and scientists in a straight jacket and risk the lives of 1.5 million Mainers.”

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