Michigan healthcare workers protest vaccine mandate

Some employees at Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System and Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health are pushing back against COVID-19 vaccination mandates.

Protesting occurred July 17 in front of Henry Ford West Bloomfield (Mich.) Hospital and Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, according to the Detroit Free Press. Organizer Amber Castro of Westland, Mich., told the newspaper that protesting also occurred at three additional Henry Ford Health System hospitals — in Clinton Township, Wyandotte and Jackson, Mich.

"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 Ms. Castro, who is not a healthcare worker but said she is speaking as a voice for these workers, according to the report.

Henry Ford Health System, which employs more than 33,000 people, said June 29 it will require its workforce to be vaccinated, effective Sept. 10. The requirement applies to team members, students, volunteers and contractors. Those with valid medical or religious reasons can get a vaccination exemption. As of June 29, Henry Ford Health System's vaccination rate across the health system was 68 percent, or more than 23,000 team members. 

"We have received widespread support from our patients, team members and the community for our decision to require the COVID-19 vaccine for team members. At the same time, we acknowledge that uncertainty remains for some, and respect the rights of those members of our Henry Ford family, as well as those in our broader communities, to voice their concerns," Bob Riney, Henry Ford's COO and president of healthcare operations, said in a statement shared with Becker's.

"The data and science continue to reinforce the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, including the mitigation of new and emerging threats like the delta variant," Mr. Riney said. "As such, we know more than ever that vaccination is the absolute best way to end this pandemic and we remain confident in our decision. We are deeply committed to working alongside every team member who has concerns or questions."

Trinity Health announced its own mandate July 8 that will require its 117,000 employees across 22 states to get the vaccine.

Trinity Health employees must submit proof of vaccination by Sept. 21. The health system has not determined if it will require annual booster shots. If it is required, employees will have to submit evidence of the booster shot each year.

Exemptions will be granted for religious or health reasons, but the requests must be documented and approved. Those who fail to show evidence of vaccination by the deadline will face termination.

Candice Rock, a registered nurse at Trinity Health's St. Mary Mercy Livonia, is among those planning to protest the mandate July 24. Protests are scheduled at St. Mary Mercy Livonia, Trinity Health's Mercy Health Saint Mary's in Grand Rapids, St. Joseph Mercy in Ann Arbor and St. Joseph Mercy Oakland in Pontiac.

Ms. Rock told Becker's that people are "rallying up for our human rights" because many do not feel that the shots are safe and are concerned because the shots do not have full FDA approval.

Mike Slubowski, CEO of Trinity Health, told Becker's in July that there was no hesitation to mandate vaccines as the health system's vaccination rate among its 117,000 employees plateaued.

"We're a healthcare provider, and people who come to us for care expect that they're going to be safe. They expected our people are vaccinated," Mr. Slubowski said. "And for 75 percent of our colleagues who come to work, they expect that their colleagues are vaccinated — that they can be safe coming to work."

As of July 8, about 75 percent of Trinity Health employees received at least one dose. 

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