Nearly 1,000 people protest in northern Kentucky over vaccine mandate at local hospitals

Nearly one thousand people lined the streets in front of St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Edgewood to protest their decision to mandate vaccinations for their staff. MADISON SCHMIDT / CONTRIBUTED
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Nearly one thousand people lined the streets in front of St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Edgewood to protest their decision to mandate vaccinations for their staff. MADISON SCHMIDT / CONTRIBUTED

Nearly one thousand people lined the streets in front of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Edgewood, Kentucky to protest their decision to mandate vaccinations for their staff.

“I’ve worked hours and hours and not been with my family to take care of other people’s families and now I’m being called selfish,” St. Elizabeth’s nurse Tasha Sheets said.

By taking a stand against the vaccination Tuesday, she said she could lose her job.

“Nurses are the toughest people,” Sheets said. “We go 12 hours without bathroom breaks. We don’t get to eat. There’s times I work 16-17 hours. You don’t hear us complain. That’s what we chose to do. But once you take our freedom away, that’s not what I signed up for. I signed up to take care of these people, but not lose my freedom in the process.”

Those nurses’ perspectives go against what many health experts and organizations say: that mandatory vaccines for health care workers are a good idea.

“So, what we’re saying is we care enough about the nurses and we really care about the patients that they take care of, and we want them to be safe,” said Delanor Manson with the Kentucky Nurses Association. “And the way to be safe is to get vaccinated.”

Manson said the protesters’ concerns center on three issues:

  • Not knowing what’s in the vaccine.
  • Long-term effects of the vaccine.
  • Lack of full FDA approval.

Manson also said the association doesn’t want to force nurses to get the shot, but health care workers need to do what it takes to protect patients – and that includes getting vaccinated.

State Representative Savannah Maddox filed legislation that would stop employers from mandating the vaccine.

“Many of the folks I’m standing with today are licensed in the Commonwealth of Kentucky to provide care for Kentuckians. So they have training,” she said. “If they don’t feel it’s in their best interest to receive the vaccine at this time, they should have the right to not be forced by their employer.”

For frontline workers who are also on the protest line, the future is uncertain.

“I want the community to understand we genuinely care about our patients,” Sheets said. “They’re going to lose a lot of nurses. I think a lot of these hospitals think we’re just going to sit there and take it. I can tell you right now, everyone I know that’s not vaccinated, their plan, they’re going to have to fire us. I’m not walking out willfully.”

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