Hundreds gather at Rochester hospital to protest vaccine mandates

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As COVID-19 mandates continue to grow, some area residents showed their disapproval for pending mandatory inoculations for healthcare workers. A large number gathered out in front of Strong Memorial Hospital to protest on Monday afternoon.

“All we want is a choice. A choice to either have the vaccine or not have it. That’s fine with us. But we thought we should have the choice not to. But that’s really our bottom line,” says Mearle McDonald, a registered nurse.

City Councilman Jose Peo says they’re also fighting against the mandate for health care workers to get the shot. By next week he says some essential health care workers across the state could be out of a job. 

“We have freedoms to be able to choose what goes in or out of our body—here we are where we’re not allowing that,” says Peo. “It’s not right to have them go a year and half of fighting for us, but here we are now trying to fire them for not taking the vaccine themselves. They went 18 months without it.”

When it comes to the vaccine, Dr. Michael Pichichero with Rochester Regional Health, says at some hospitals, beds are filling up, particularly in the pediatric wing. The vaccine works as a deterrent to prevent the worst possible outcome. “What if it’s your child who has the really bad infection, who ends up on a ventilator, who ends up in the hospital, or who dies?” He asks. “For me, that is too big of a risk.”

Dr. Jennifer Nayak with URMC says trials for the vaccine focused above all on the safety of the shot. “No evidence in any of the studies for adults, teens, or younger kids of long-lasting negative effects from this vaccination,” she says.

But some, like McDonald, are still skeptical. She says if the mandate goes through, she and up to 30% of fellow workers in area hospitals might not be employed next week. “They’re canceling surgeries because they’re not going to have the people to take care of [patients],” says McDonald.

Demonstrators say they’ll be back again next week to protest the mandates.

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