SAN DIEGO — A former Kaiser Permanente nurse recorded her last moments at the hospital in Kearny Mesa as she was escorted to the door amid the company denying some of its employees’ requests for religious exemptions to its COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The hospital system claims religious exemptions are being misused to skirt the requirement.
While she believes the vaccines are helping people in high-risk COVID categories, Tori Jensen said her religious beliefs prevent her from getting the shots.
“I just wanted to document my story,” she said. “I also really, if it did go viral, wanted people to know why I was doing what I’m doing, because I truly believe in freedom and this country is amazing. It’s not perfect, but what makes us different is that we have protected freedoms and I want to see my kids grow up in a country where their freedoms are also protected.”
Kaiser, which is based in Oakland, set a Sept. 30 deadline for employees to either be fully vaccinated or apply for a medical or religious exemption, its website shows. But leading up to that deadline, Dr. Andrew Bindman, the system’s chief medical officer, said in a statement that Kaiser was notified by labor partners and others of open discussions about “ways to avoid the vaccine mandate by misusing the legitimate religious exemption process.”
A company review found that employees had submitted “similar or nearly identical requests” with language from templated online forms, which led the health care giant to review all requests “to ensure their requests reflected their sincerely held beliefs.”
Workers whose requests are denied are put on unpaid administrative leave and given an opportunity to get the vaccine and come back to work, the statement said.
“God speaks to me clearly and he said, gave me a lot of peace about my decision and I truly believe he has something for me,” Jensen said.
Jensen said she has taken other vaccines but the government mandates have pushed her too far.
“If we don’t stand up for what we believe in, we have nothing,” she said. “That is the most important thing.”
Jensen said she has already been approached by potential new employers in her field but she’ll miss the nurses and doctors at Kaiser who she worked alongside throughout the pandemic.
“Why I’m being asked to leave when I’m willing to do all the things they’ve asked to do, like twice-a-week testing and I feel like I’m complying, but I feel I’m being persecuted for my religious beliefs,” Jensen said.