Protest at KU Health System opposes decision to require COVID vaccines for employees

·4 min read

A protest against the University of Kansas Health System’s COVID vaccine requirement began early Friday morning outside the hospital.

Health care workers stood outside the hospital in Kansas City, Kansas, with signs indicating they opposed a requirement that they be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Terminate the mandate not employees,” “I’m not anti-vaxx I’m pro freedom,” “Health is not injected,” and “This momma calls the shots” said some of the signs carried by the dozens of protesters.

The health system announced earlier this month that vaccinations will be required for employees, volunteers, students, temporary workers and contractors working in Kansas City area facilities, affecting 12,839 people. All KU physicians must be vaccinated, too, officials said.

Employees have until Dec. 1 to comply, but most are already vaccinated, the announcement said.

During Friday morning’s University of Kansas Health System briefing, broadcast online, a representative of the hospital acknowledged the protest.

Hospital officials had been aware of the demonstration ahead of time and had worked to locate protesters near W. 39th Avenue and Cambridge Street. Patients and employees are expected to have no difficulty accessing the hospital, they said.

Vaccine requirement

Several of the protesters stressed they are not anti-vaccine. They said they are against the mandate that everyone must be vaccinated.

“Medicine is not a ‘one size fits all,’” said a woman who declined to be identified out of fear of retaliation by the hospital.

The woman, who said she was a nurse and served in the U.S. Army for 10 years, said she doesn’t believe an employer or government should be mandating that everyone should be get the vaccine.

“I fought for freedom that we are now trying to protect,” the woman said. She said she has not been vaccinated but has had Covid and recovered.

Earlier, KU officials had said they would consider a mandate after the vaccine was approved by federal authorities. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine received full approval for use in people ages 16 and older on Aug. 23.

Several health care organizations have endorsed mandatory vaccinations for health professionals, including the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, American Nurses Association and American Academy of Pediatrics.

Two other hospital systems in Kansas City in mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for employees. Truman Medical Centers/University Health announced its employee mandate in late July. Saint Luke’s Health System announced a similar requirement on Monday.

Hospital officials at KU and elsewhere point out that they already require certain vaccinations for employees, including influenza, which helps keep patients and staff safe.

Toll of COVID

In recent weeks, hospitals across the nation and in Kansas City have reported critical care resources have reached maximum capacity as the delta variant of the coronavirus has led to a surge in COVID-19 cases.

In recent weeks, hospitals in the Kansas City were turning away patients transfers from other hospitals at record numbers as they were being overwhelmed by the surge.

In late August, intensive care units across the Kansas City region had the most adult COVID-19 patients they’d ever had since the start of the pandemic — even higher than the surge last winter.

As of Thursday, the area area encompassing Kansas City and Jackson, Clay and Platte counties in Missouri and Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas, has had 189,531 cases of COVID-19 and 2,705 people from the area have died from the disease.

Robin Fischer of Overland Park, whose daughter is a nurse at the hospital, said she showed up to the rally to show her support for all of the nurses.

“I do not agree with the vaccine mandate,” she said. “There’s already a shortage of nurses and this will only make the problem worse.”

Kansas State Rep. Lance Neelly, a Republican from Tonganoxie, showed up in support of the protesters and addressed a few of them.

“I’m here because I don’t believe in mandates,” he said afterwards. “I don’t believe that we should force people or take away their rights to decide what is put in their bodies . . . . I think that’s a choice that the person needs to be able to make.”

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