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Unvaccinated Michigan hospital workers expected to protest mandates for COVID-19 vaccine

Posted at 12:50 PM, Jul 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-15 18:50:04-04

ANN ARBOR (WXYZ)  — Over the next two weekends, some Michigan workers in the health care industry are expected to protest mandates by the health systems they work for to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

While public health and medical experts have repeatedly said that COVID-19 vaccines protect against infection and help save lives, some are still saying no to the shots.

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"If they let me go, I have to start all over," said Candice Rock, a registered nurse at St. Mary Mercy Livonia Hospital.

She is refusing to get the vaccination against COVID-19 despite a mandate by Trinity Health, the corporation that owns and operates the hospital and seven others in Michigan, including Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Howell and Pontiac.

Rock and other Trinity Health employees who are also opposed to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate are planning to protest outside some of the hospitals on July 24.

"We're not anti-vax. We just don't want to get it right this minute," said one woman who spoke to 7 Action News on the condition that we would not show her face or use her name. "And the fact that it was mandated makes you just feel kind of helpless and put in a position where you can't make the best medical choice for yourself without compromising your livelihood."

Trinity Health has more than 117,000 employees in 22 states, and they recently announced that they are requiring "all colleagues, clinical staff, contractors, and those conducting business in its health care facilities be vaccinated against COVID-19."

Any exemptions for religious or health reasons must be formally requested, documented and approved, according to Trinity Health.

Any employee who does not meet the health system's criteria for an exemption and fails to show proof of vaccination will be terminated.

An estimated 75% of the Trinity Health workforce has received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Casalou said they support anyone who wants to protest peacefully, but they ask that they don't do it while they are clocked in at work and that they don't disrupt their ability to give patient care.

Despite public health and medical experts saying that the vaccines used in the fight against COVID-19 are safe and effective, Rock and others don't feel it's safe.

"It's not FDA approved yet," she said about the vaccine that the FDA has approved under emergency use.

Casalou expects other health systems will soon adopt the same vaccine mandate.

"It's been the most intensely studied vaccine in the history of vaccines," he said.

Protests of Henry Ford Health's vaccine mandate for their employees could take place Saturday.

It's being organized by someone who is not an employee of Henry Ford Health, but she said she's standing up for a number of employees of the health system who are afraid of retaliation for their participation in the protests.

According to Henry Ford Health, the vaccination rate across their health system is about 68%.

Bob Riney, the president of health care operations and COO at Henry Ford Health System, released this statement:

"We have received widespread support from our patients, team members and the community for our decision to require the COVID-19 vaccine for team members. At the same time, we acknowledge that uncertainty remains for some, and respect the rights of those members of our Henry Ford family, as well as those in our broader communities, to voice their concerns. The data and science continue to reinforce the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, including the mitigation of new and emerging threats like the Delta variant. As such, we know more than ever that vaccination is the absolute best way to end this pandemic and we remain confident in our decision. We are deeply committed to working alongside every team member who has concerns or questions.”