MERIDIAN, Idaho — Demonstrators lined both sides of Eagle Road in Meridian outside of St. Luke's Monday, protesting a decision by three local health systems to require their employees to get their COVID-19 vaccine.
“I am not anti-vax and I don't think anybody here really is anti-vax. We are anti-forced and anti-being coerced into this,” said Sofia Boyarchuk, an Idaho nursing student.
The protest was organized by Health Freedom Idaho.
“I am not against the vaccine per se. I am against them forcing and mandating people who choose not to get it. Otherwise, they are threatening them with losing their jobs. That is what I am against. Their jobs or their freedoms," said Ramse Rogers, an Eagle resident. “If we can't travel because we are not vaccinated or we can't go to a grocery store because we are not vaccinated, those are the types of things that right here with this mandate, are where those types of things start."
St. Luke’s is requiring employees, students, volunteers, and contractors to have at least one dose of the vaccine by September 1. Saint Alphonsus Health System is requiring colleagues and clinical staff to submit proof of vaccination by September 21.
St. Luke’s officials say this comes as the Delta variant poses a great concern. That's why the nonprofit Crush the Curve Idaho continues its call for everyone to get vaccinated.
“The Delta variant is definitely starting to move in the wrong direction when it comes to positive cases. I would say people need to get tested when they feel sick. We are all looking at a total number of positives to see how we are doing. You see a lot fewer people that feel under the weather get tested than what you saw six months ago,” said Tina Upson, Executive Director of Crush the Curve Idaho. “A vaccine is our way out of this. We’re very adamant that individuals educate themselves from trusted sources about the vaccine and make a decision that hopefully can help them avoid these risks.”
Vaccine requirements are nothing new for most hospital workers and both St. Luke’s and Saint Alphonsus say people can submit an exemption for medical or religious reasons.