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Crowd protests Med Center Health vaccine mandate for employees

Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 11:43 AM CDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - Over 100 protesters gathered outside Med Center Health Wednesday morning to protest the company’s vaccine mandate for employees.

[RELATED: Med Center Health will require employees to receive COVID-19 vaccine]

Community members and health care workers from across southcentral Kentucky could be seen outside the campus holding signs, some of which read, “my body my choice”, and “medical freedom.”

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“All during the pandemic, the nurses worked every day, nobody said anything. Nobody had no problem then. But all of a sudden, they went from heroes to unemployed,” said protester, David Shuffett.

Med Center Health is one of the largest hospital systems in the state to require its employees to get the vaccine.

When asked why the protesters were skeptical of the vaccine, many said they don’t have confidence in it.

“Many of us don’t trust it. And even if we did, this should still be our choice,” said Shuffett.

“It hasn’t been approved by the FDA, it’s still under investigation. Clinical trials are still going on and won’t be complete until February of 2023. So a lot of people have reservations about taking it. And I think we have to respect that,” said Bowling Green doctor, Randall Davidson.

Davidson is a Bowling Green ER doctor, not employed at Med Center, who attended the rally says he is unvaccinated.

“Are you worried about catching the virus?” WBKO News reporter Kelly Dean asked him.

“I have a little anxiety every time I walk through the doors, but that’s the job. And it’s always been the job,” said Davidson.

As a physician who has worked for 27 years, he says his qualms about the vaccine stem from uncertainty.

“The risk of serious complication or death from the virus is is a known entity. The risk from the vaccines, especially long term is still unknown, much of that, I think lives at the feet of the CDC,” expressed Davidson.

However, those in support of the shot say the long-term effects of COVID are also unknown.

Meanwhile, a registered nurse at the Medical Center who also attended the protest says the mandate will not push her to get vaccinated.

“I plan on looking for a position at another hospital that would not require the vaccine,” said Laura Towe.

As these protesters choose to line the sidewalks, shout, hold signs, they say the vaccine should be that as well-- a choice.

“I’m not saying I will never take the vaccine, but I want to see the long-term data on the safety and the side effects, and if that proves to be perfectly safe, then I’ll stand in line. But at this point, no, I choose not to take it,” said Davidson.

Those in leadership positions at Med Center Health will have through August 9 to receive their first dose while all others will have through September 1.

Med Center says there are some vaccine exemptions that include medical or religious reasons. Officials say human resources will review each exemption request and that it is a detailed process.

WBKO News did reach out to the Med Center for a statement and in a press release the Med Center responded with this message:

“While Med Center Health respects everyone’s right to peacefully protest, we stand firmly behind our decision requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. This decision is part of Med Center Health’s commitment to do all we can to protect our patients, employees and our community. Multiple health systems across the Commonwealth, representing 75% of the state’s hospital beds, have since announced the same requirement for their staff. More than 60 health and medical groups across the country have endorsed this position as well. The Kentucky Hospital Association, Kentucky Medical Association, and Kentucky Nurses Association support requiring COVID-19 vaccination for health care employees. 99% of our active Med Center Health physicians have voluntarily chosen to receive the vaccine and increasing numbers of our employees are choosing to be vaccinated. We encourage the community to follow the example of our healthcare team and get vaccinated for COVID-19.”

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