Health care workers rally against California’s vaccine policy: ‘It should be a choice’

Coronavirus

SAN DIEGO – A group of health care workers and supporters gathered Monday evening outside of Rady Children’s Hospital to protest California’s COVID-19 vaccination policy for all workers at hospitals and health care facilities.

Protesters told FOX 5 they’re fighting for the freedom to choose whether or not to get vaccinated.

“We were treated like heroes last year,” local nurse Melissa Myers said. “And now, if we don’t do this one thing, we’re awful, terrible people.”

The state announced the new vaccination policy late last month. It applies to all health care settings, both public and private. It falls short of a mandate, however, offering employees the option of undergoing regular COVID testing instead of providing proof of vaccination. Those workers will be required to undergo testing at least once a week, possibly even twice a week.

California is the first state requiring health care workers to get vaccinated with the deadline in September.

To date, San Diego County has recorded more than 300,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 3,800 have died due to the virus.

“Too many people have chosen to live with this virus,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a news conference announcing the policy. “We’re at a point in this epidemic, this pandemic, where individuals’ choice not to get vaccinated is now impacting the rest of us in a profound and devastating and deadly way.”

Myers said she saw the worst when COVID broke out, but she has no plans to take the vaccine.

“I feel like I sacrificed so much – and now to be threatened with my job if I don’t get the vaccine – it should be a choice,” she said.

Demonstrators Monday held signs largely featuring anti-vaccine messaging, signs which read, “my body, my choice,” “science is not settled,” and “if your vaccines worked, then why aren’t they working?”

Some at the rally said they support the decision of others to get the vaccine. But many like Amy Strelic believe there are reasons for vaccine hesitancy.

“You could have a medical reason, you could have a religious reason… you can have, I want to wait and see what’s going to happen,” Strelic said. “It doesn’t mean you’re for or against, but sometimes, we just want time.”

Tawny Buettner, one of the rally’s organizers and a local nurse, says the state is going too far with the mandate, and should focus on getting the vaccine to the most vulnerable.

“At most, it might provide personal protection for those at greatest risk,” Buettner said. “That goes to personal choice and personal protection.”

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