Monday, August 15, 2022

Medical Workers and Supporters Protest Vaccination Mandate

By: Loral Winn

Student Journalist

Health care workers and their supporters gathered near Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi on the sidewalk of Belk Boulevard Wednesday to protest the hospital’s recently issued COVID-19 vaccination policy.

Following the mandate issued by Baptist Memorial Health Care’s President and CEO Jason Little, some employees at the hospital’s Oxford location were left feeling “betrayed and angry.”

Ashley Boatright, a Baptist employee since 2016, was one of several nurses protesting the vaccination requirement. 

“I felt extremely frustrated because I have loved being a nurse at Baptist,” Boatright said after learning about the vaccination mandate. “Where there is a risk, there should be a choice.” 

Other employees at the protest agreed.

Lacy Cunningham, a nursing informatics employee at Baptist for 12 years, called it a “slap in the face” to require employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or face consequences.

“I think we deserve a little more respect right now,” Cunningham said. “We are trusted to take care of you and make medical decisions and actions that take care of you, but we are not trusted to make medical decisions that take care of ourselves.”

Many protestors emphasized that they are not anti-vaccine and do not deny its effectiveness, but instead challenge any policy that requires it for all employees. 

“I am standing here today because I believe in medical freedoms,” Cunningham said. “We cannot control what happens inside of our own bodies, but we can, at least, control what we put into them. Forcing me to take a vaccine that my doctor and I do not believe is helpful with my medical condition is taking away some of my very basic rights.”

Baptist Memorial Health Care notified the public of the mandate through a press release on Aug. 12 and is requiring all employees to be vaccinated by Nov. 1. However, the press release states that there will be a process for those who cannot get the vaccine due to medical issues.

Several protestors said they worry about losing their jobs if they do not comply with the new company standard.

“We have to stand up for something, and I worry that we are tiptoeing into some dangerous territory if we don’t fight this,” Cunningham said. 

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