ORANGE, Calif.—Approximately 200 health care workers rallied outside of the Children’s Health Orange County (CHOC) Hospital on Aug. 9 in the city of Orange to protest against California’s vaccination mandate that went into effect Aug. 5. California was the first state to mandate vaccines for health care professionals.
Employees of all health care facilities have until Sept. 30 to get at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with many health care employees concerned that they’ll be fired if they refuse to comply with the mandate. The letter doesn’t state what the consequences of noncompliance will be.
“Our governor said that we must be fully vaccinated by a certain date ‘or else,’” Margaret Wonser, a registered nurse at CHOC told The Epoch Times.
“I don’t believe it’s right. My body, my choice. There’s so many reasons that we should have the right to choose and not feel coerced or pressured, because a lot of people have gotten [the vaccine] out of feeling pressured,” she said.
Currently, Wonser and other unvaccinated health care workers are trying to get religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate, since the only other type of exemption is for medical reasons. If the exemptions are approved, health care workers will still need to wear masks and be tested for COVID-19 weekly.
“I have an immune system. I trust it. God gave it to me,” Wonser said. “I don’t come to work when I’m sick, I stay home. So let’s get back to the basics of health and wellness, and when you’re sick, stay home, and when you’re not, great, go to work. This is just madness.”
Protesters held up signs stating, “I Respect Your Choice,” and “Stop Medical Discrimination.”
Many of the employees in attendance were working with the Pacific Justice Institute, a nonprofit legal defense organization that’s helping workers fight the mandates in court.
Janet Wineland, a retired registered nurse at the protest, said it’s wrong for the state to require a vaccine that is not fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“The vaccine is experimental,” Wineland said. “And it’s not right that they’re forcing it upon people, and the larger issue is tyranny and loss of our freedoms here in America that are quickly being eroded.”
Joshua Fernandez, a respiratory therapist at Kindred Hospital in Westminster, said all the support at the protest helped him not feel ostracized for being unvaccinated.
“No one wants this to be mandated upon,” Fernandez told The Epoch Times. “If people want to take it, it’s their freedom, it’s their right to go ahead and do so. But if we don’t want to, we [shouldn’t] have to, and our employers are essentially threatening us and telling us that ‘you’re going to lose your job if you don’t do what we tell you to do.’”
Fernandez said that in his facility, employees are wearing N95 masks, surgical masks, and a face shield, while other personal protective equipment is available to workers. He said people should research for themselves and “understand the argument.”
“They’re using trigger words like a ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’ and things like ‘anti-vaxxers,’” he said. “So, use your words carefully. Don’t just go out and throw these things at people and persecute them and tally them into like some kind of group.”
The Epoch Times reached out to CHOC but didn’t hear back by press deadline.