AKRON, Ohio (WJW) – More than 50 healthcare workers and their supporters gathered across the street from Akron Children’s Hospital late Wednesday, carrying signs and waving flags to protest the hospital’s new COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
According to the policy, all workers must get the COVID vaccine or face regular testing. It’s something the demonstrators strongly oppose regardless of their own vaccination status.
“Let me be clear, we are not anti-vaccine. We just support everybody’s choice and whether they want to get the vaccine or not,” said Melissa Holmes, a healthcare worker.
The policy was announced in August.
The hospital’s president and CEO Grace Wakulchik said it is part of a “comprehensive plan” to address “high volumes and limited staffing.”
Still, protestors say they’re going to lose even more employees if they enforce the mandate.
“I think it’s wrong that they want to force us to take a medical procedure that we do not want to take,” said Nurse Practitioner Faith Lanshe. “I’ve been here 34 years. It’s my life to take care of people, but I have to take care of myself first.”
Some of the concerns expressed over the vaccine Wednesday included religious objections and the possibility of a serious adverse reaction, with protestors citing reports of blood clots, anaphylaxis, heart attacks and even deaths.
“It hasn’t been thoroughly tested,” said Eric Wohlwend.
“And the vaccine doesn’t prevent you from spreading it, and some of our people have had COVID and have natural antibodies.” added Holmes.
Akron Children’s Hospital sent FOX 8 the following statement regarding the event:
We recognize the right of our employees and others to peacefully express their views and we are listening to their concerns. It’s been a tough year and half for all of us, and we appreciate the long hours and difficult days and nights of those in health care working through a pandemic that seems to have no end. Akron Children’s, like every other health care organization, is experiencing high volumes and limited staffing. Our leadership team has developed a comprehensive plan to address this.
Requiring employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine or weekly COVID testing was a difficult decision for us, but one made based on science and our concern for the health and safety our young patients, and our employees themselves.
Yesterday we had our highest number of children hospitalized with COVID-19, and our pediatric intensive care unit is over capacity with a combination of community respiratory infections and an increase in COVID-19. We have a commitment to care for all children, including those with chronic illnesses and those not eligible to be vaccinated. We must do everything to protect them. Vaccination, while not a 100 percent safeguard against the virus, is still the most powerful tool we have to get through the pandemic.
Protestors, especially those who have worked throughout the entire pandemic, respectfully disagree and are prepared to lose their jobs rather than get the shot.
“We worked through a pandemic without masks, without gowns, without goggles, we all got through it and now suddenly it’s for patient safety,” said Lanshe. “I don’t want the jab. If you want the jab, take it. I don’t want it.”