by Sherri Kolade
The Michigan Chronicle
In July, Beaumont Hospital (like some other large Detroit and metro Detroit businesses) mandated vaccines to all employees, volunteers and providers who practice or work at a Beaumont facility.
As COVID-19 still surges along with the growth of the Delta variant, businesses, hospitals, universities, companies and other entities are beginning to mandate that employees be vaccinated. As a consequence, many employees are finding themselves having to make some tough choices if they are not ready to roll up their sleeves and take the shot.
Recent news headlines have shown that places like Wayne State University, Trinity Health and Henry Ford Health System (HFHS), just to name a few, are among the Michigan-based companies mandating vaccines, while also allowing for medical or religious exemptions.
Just this past July, HFHS President and CEO Wright L. Lassiter III communicated to HFHS patients, members, customers, and others about mandating the COVID-19 vaccine throughout the hospital system. On July 17, the ire from some employees who were against the enforced jab was on display as they protested near Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, the Detroit Free Press reported.
The protest drew hundreds of individuals who were seen with signs that said, “No jab = no job,” with others saying that they were heroes last year and now they are “villains,” according to the article.
Lassiter wrote in his letter that the start of the pandemic last year has confirmed what was already known.
“We are stronger together. As a community, we have all been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in unique and countless ways. Although the positivity rate and the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 continue to decline, we have lived this fight long enough to know that new variants continue to emerge, and surges can happen anytime, anywhere,” he wrote.
The hospital entity administered its first COVID-19 vaccination last December, and they have “consistently advocated for vaccination” as the optimal way to protect the hospital community and “prevent the spread of this devastating virus.”
Not everyone agrees — many have protested the COVID-19 mandate.
“We are not anti-vax. We are not unvaccinated out here. There are people who got the COVID vaccine. We are all out here because we do not believe the vaccine should be mandated,” said a protestor quoted in the article, who was not a health care worker but a representative.
HFHS was the first known hospital system in the state to enforce that all of its 33,000 employees, students, volunteers, and contractors be get vaccinated by no later than September 10 — even remote-working employees are required, too.
Some medical and religious exemptions could be considered, but only for individuals who had severe allergic reactions to the first dose or to the ingredients in the vaccines, according to the article. The story added that 70 percent of employees have received their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“As a healthcare leader and trusted voice in our depend on us to create a safe, healthy environment and we want to honor that promise to you,” Lassiter said in the letter. “We acknowledge the magnitude of this decision and we did not make it lightly. We are not the first organization to do this, and we will not be the last. We have never been more committed than we are today to our mission to improve the lives of those we serve throughout our communities.”
Nationally, vaccine mandates are becoming a thing – even with recent pushes in New York to normalize carrying a vaccination card around to prove vaccination status.
A new initiative, “Key to NYC” was unveiled in mid-August allowing entrance to indoor entertainment venues, restaurants, gyms and the like to only the vaccinated.
The Associated Press also recently reported that CNN fired three employees in August for reportedly “coming to work unvaccinated” and violating company policy.
CNN chief Jeff Zucker informed staff in a memo, according to the article: “Let me be clear — we have a zero-tolerance policy on this.”
The Associated Press reported that over a third of news staff members have come back to in-person work, and proof of vaccination has been on the honor system, which could change soon.
According to Medic City News, as the pandemic lingers, many American employees are not interested still in getting the shot. Do they have a point? What if their employers mandate the vaccine? The publication said that employers looking to mandate the vaccine are concerned about the health of their employees, clients and also potential business being halted due to the virus. Some employers are at a hypothetical standstill and wonder if they could require their employees to be vaccinated as a basis of their employment.
“Likely due to a concern with the legality, morality, or both of such a requirement, many employers may not be ready to implement vaccine mandates,” according to the article, which added that according to a recent benchmarking survey, 87.9 percent of employers do not plan on requiring workers to be vaccinated. Also, just over seven percent of employers surveyed do intend (or are planning to intend) a vaccine mandate. “It is anticipated that this percentage may increase once the COVID-19 vaccines obtain full FDA approval.”
The article added that courts and state legislatures are looking to “define the legality of COVID-19 vaccine mandates” and employers should consider taking steps to protect themselves against any possible litigation.
Back at home, in July, the University of Michigan (U of M) announced that all students, faculty and staff on all three campuses must be vaccinated against COVID-19 and must submit their vaccination information before the start of the fall term, by August 30.
“Widespread vaccination is the primary and most effective tool that will bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control and it is the key to a vibrant and engaging academic year,” officials wrote in a U of M email.
The vaccine requirement also applies to those working or learning remotely; the university is providing limited exemptions for medical and religious reasons.
Alan Hunt Sr., a mechanical engineer at U of M’s Ann Arbor campus, told the Michigan Chronicle that he does not want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine yet and is unsure of what will happen to him professionally.
“I think it is an individual right to get vaccinated or not,” he said, adding that everyone is saying to ”trust the science,” but he is leery of some things regarding that.
“It has not been approved by the FDA,” he said of the vaccines.
Hunt, 55, said he has not taken a flu shot either.
“I’m not anti-vaccine,” he said, adding that he would take a vaccine for a disease like measles or mumps, but it is hard to take a vaccine against a virus that could easily mutate and render the vaccine ineffective.
He added that he is concerned with the mounting vaccine mandates at companies.
“It should not be mandated that I take some medicine,” he said, adding that at some point he might consider taking it. “I can see where at some point [I] have to be vaccinated to get on a plane … go in hospitals. … I still want my right to choose, that is all.”