Craig Smith says he may soon be working his last shift aboard the West Vella, an ultra-deepwater drillship operating in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Smith is a drilling optimizer with about 15 years of experience working for Seadrill, a deep-water drilling contractor for the petroleum industry.
Smith told The Epoch Times that Seadrill, like many companies, is requiring a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment, and he’s opting to lose his job about 10 years ahead of his retirement rather than get the shot. He says he was told by his employer that if he’s not fully vaccinated by Nov. 30, he would no longer have a position at Seadrill.
“I’ve never been fired from any job in my life,” said Smith, 52. “And to think with a perfect record out here … that I’m actually going to be fired over not taking a shot that I just don’t feel comfortable taking.”
Smith says he’s not opposed to vaccines and has taken others for his work in the past, but would like to be given the option to wait a while and research potential long-term effects of the COVID-19 vaccines before committing to taking one.
New requirements to get vaccinated are affecting workers nationwide, and the impact is being felt across different industries in both the public and private sectors.
The new rules issued by businesses as well as states and the federal government, which require workers to take the jab or lose their job, have been mostly met with compliance. Vaccination rates have soared to above 90 percent at many companies that have put mandates in place, and nationwide, about 185 million Americans are now fully vaccinated.
The White House, along with leadership at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tout the growing vaccination rate as evidence that the mandates are effective.
“Each day this week, as organizations hit their vaccination deadlines, we’ve got new data showing vaccination requirements work,” said counselor to the president Jeffrey Zients at a White House COVID-19 Response Team press briefing last week.
But while the vaccination rates may be high, many Americans, like Smith, are choosing to change careers rather than take the shot.
“I’m going to get back into the trucking industry,” Smith said.
Northwell Health, a large health system in New York, on Oct. 4 said it fired 1,400 workers because they declined to get a COVID-19 vaccine—that’s in addition to the thousands more statewide that have been put on unpaid leave following a Sept. 27 deadline in New York for health care workers to get vaccinated.
United Airlines said last week that it’s set to terminate 593 of its employees who have chosen to not comply with the company’s vaccine mandate. Southwest also recently announced vaccine requirements for its more than 54,000 employees ahead of the implementation of a federal rule, expected in the coming weeks, that will require all businesses with more than 100 employees to put mandates in place.
The number of job postings listing COVID-19 vaccine requirements jumped 20 times in the past two months, according to LinkedIn.
Public-sector workers are also losing their jobs over the new rules. Vaccine requirements for teachers and other staff members in New York City’s public school system took effect on Oct. 4.
Orline Borno, 51, has taught history at the Benjamin N. Cardozo High School in Bayside, Queens, for going on three decades. Now she’s being stripped of her job for refusing the needle.
“I call it medical tyranny,” she told The Epoch Times, saying she found the mandate “unconstitutional” and “immoral.”
“It pains me,” Borno said, lamenting the sudden end of her career. “I gave 26 years to the Department of Education, to my students, to a wonderful profession, and for them to just turn their backs on us, dedicated educators … I feel betrayed.”
Borno says her students were “devastated” to learn of her departure, while parents have backed her decision.
“They understand. They support us,” she said.
In her view, the vaccination shouldn’t be required, because teachers are able to ensure a sufficient level of safety regardless, as they did before the vaccine’s release, with mask-wearing and testing for infections.
“We were doing it fine,” she said.
Borno says she’s not yet convinced of the safety of the novel vaccine, which was approved in record time. And what information is available, Borno says she’s found to be politicized.
“It’s political science now. It’s not real science that’s happening right now. It’s causing a divide,” she said.
She suggested that the efforts to contain the virus have gone too far in limiting people’s liberties, and that authorities may want to hold onto those things.
“If we don’t stop this now, it’s never going to end,” she said.
Kara Lidstrom, 30, is an intern at the Human Development Center in Cloquet, Minnesota, working toward becoming a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. She told The Epoch Times that last month, her employer announced its mandates. She says she’s choosing to not get vaccinated; she’ll go through what the center is calling “voluntary termination” and ultimately switch her career path.
Lindstrom says she has already had COVID and is concerned that a COVID shot will affect her fibromyalgia.
“COVID did affect my heart, and some doctors are saying if you get the shot, maybe it will make it better, but then there are other stories coming out where it’s making it worse,” said Lindstrom.
“Besides that, it’s my choice.”
President Joe Biden’s executive order, announced Sept. 9, requires all federal employees and federal contractors to take the shot, as well as CMS medical workers. It’s also set to require all workers at private businesses with 100 employees or more to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or show a weekly negative test.
Many of the private sector mandates are coming out ahead of an Emergency Temporary Standard expected from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration meant to implement the new rule in the coming weeks.