Justice Stephen Breyer denied an emergency request for an injunction. A brief court order said the challengers could try again after a federal appeals court rules on their lawsuit or if the appeals court fails to act by Oct. 29, when the state is scheduled to begin enforcing the requirement.
Health care workers are contesting the order issued by Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, because it does not include a religious exemption. The state has granted such an accommodation for religious objections to previous vaccination mandates, they contend.
In asking the Supreme Court for an emergency halt to the plan, the challengers said state officials threaten health care workers "with the immediate termination of their ability to feed their families, a loss of their license for failing to abide by the unconstitutional and unlawful mandate, and attempt to turn their religious beliefs into First Amendment orphans."
The order applies to hospital and nursing home workers. State officials said most of those covered by the order have complied.
The state said the vaccination requirement is supported by a broad coalition of health care providers. State officials cited an outbreak of Covid infections in health care facilities and said "vaccinations are the most effective tool to prevent staffing shortages caused by unvaccinated workers."
A federal judge earlier denied the challengers' request for an order to block the new requirement, as did a three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.