Firing of St. Louis nurse for violating mandatory flu shot policy sparks protest

A nurse was fired for violating St. Louis-based Mercy Hospital South's policy requiring a flu shot, sparking a protest outside the hospital, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The nurse had been granted a religious exemption from the annual flu shot while working for St. Anthony's Medical Center, now Mercy Hospital South, before it was acquired by Mercy this year, according to the protest organizer.

Demonstrators walked on the public sidewalk outside the hospital Nov. 28 to protest Mercy's mandatory flu shot policy, according to a KTVI report. It is unclear whether hospital employees were involved in the protest, but the demonstrators said they support employees who request exemption from the flu shot for religious or medical reasons.

"That's the problem here: They declined the religious exemption," said protest organizer Nelia Aubuchon, who would only volunteer that she is close to the fired nurse.

Mercy started requiring flu vaccinations in 2016. The health system got 170 requests for medical or religious exemptions to the flu vaccine among its 44,000 employees in four states. Most of the requests were granted, but employees whose exemptions the health system declined received notification the week of Nov. 25, according to a statement from the hospital.

"The point of our flu vaccination policy is simple: Protection against the flu virus saves lives, especially those of our most vulnerable patients," the statement said.

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