ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Hours before University of Rochester Medical Center and Rochester Regional Health announced new guidelines requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for health care employees, more than 100 health care workers and others protested mandatory vaccinations outside Strong Memorial Hospital Monday.
Seventy percent of eligible New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The group that protested represents some of the other 30%.
“We’re all red-blooded Americans,” said protester Wendy Wilson. “And we need to start acting like Americans first.”
Wilson, a school employee, joined a group of health care workers and others in front of University of Rochester Medical Center Monday morning. Hours after the protest against Governor Andrew Cuomo’s mandate that workers at state-run hospital be vaccinated, UMRC and RRH announced that all employees must be vaccinated by September 8, or be subject to regular COVID-19 testing.
Some at the protest cited fear of side effects from the vaccine.
“We do hear that people are having adverse reactions to it,” said Tanya Marshall. “And that’s a big problem.”
The stance shared by many: Their body, their choice.
“I don't feel pressure because I feel confident in my decision,” said Devan Lapresi, a nurse. “And I don't live for anybody else, but I live for myself, and I trust myself over anybody else's decision.”
“Health care workers are just showing up in unity against medical autonomy,” said Lapresi. “If we don't have the right to choose what goes into our body, where does that lead us in medicine?"
Most scientists and doctors have said whatever side effects the vaccine may present, getting COVID-19 while unvaccinated is worse.
“We want people to follow the science, to get their information from reliable, valid sources," Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Michael Mendoza said. "We want people to consider the vaccine if they already haven’t gotten it, it’s not too late to get the vaccine, we know that that will have an impact on the short and in the long-term.”
“I don't want to come across as harsh,” said Wilson. “But unfortunately, I think a lot of them are pushing the same agenda."
“It’s not going to end well,” said Lapresi of the mandate. “Hospitals are already short-staffed and this is the hill we will die on. The health care workers, their foot is down. We're not playing games."