TOPEKA (KSNT)- More than 100 people gathered near Stormont Vail Hospital & Trauma Center to protest the new COVID-19 vaccine mandate, requiring all staff to receive the vaccination by Oct. 31.
The protest took place at the intersection of SW Washburn Ave. and SW 10th St., with a handful of Stormont Vail employees in attendance. Many people brought out American flags and signs against the mandate of the vaccination.
Some employees are arguing that they should have the right to chose whether to get the vaccine or not.
“I have no problems with the vaccine itself,” Tracy Conley, an ICU nurse at Stormont Vail, said. “But until there are those long-term results that show what people are having as a result of the vaccine six months, a year, two years, you can’t force somebody to take that risk of the unknown.”
The mandate is forcing people unwilling to get vaccinated to make a life-changing decision.
“I really don’t want to lose my job, but they are trying to force me,” Teresa Edwards, a labor and delivery nurse at Stormont vail for more than 10 years, said. “It really upsets me.”
Due to a number of reasons outside of COVID, the hospital is facing major staffing shortages, impacting the availability of beds. Some employees are worried that this mandate will drive even more workers away.
“A lot of beds each night are empty because we can’t staff them and now they are pushing the mandate,” one ICU nurse who attended the protest said. “It’s going to cause more people to leave. It’s not going to be great for our work environment, which is already pretty hostile.”
The decision to mandate the vaccine comes after a rising number of cases across the country, and FDA approval of the Pizer vaccine.
“Vaccinations are the way to end the pandemic, and that’s exactly what we continue to see, more vaccinations,” the CDC said.
After announcing the employee vaccine mandate, Dr. Robert Kenagy, president of Stormont vail, said “It is very frustrating to know that in this day and age, we’re talking about a well-established science that protects millions of people across the country, billions of people across the world, and we cannot get to a place of consensus, as a community, as a culture, to endorse vaccination.”
Stormont Vail reported 85 percent of its employees have already received the COVID-19 vaccination. Employees have until the end of October to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as the annual flu shot, which is already a requirement for Stormont Vail workers.