Unintended consequences – Vaccine mandate ends some careers

October 2021 Posted in Other

By Melissa Wagoner

When Robin Hyslop left her shoes on the sidewalk in front of Legacy Silverton on Sept. 30, she left behind a lot more than a pair of worn-out sneakers – she left behind a 33-year career as a Certified Nursing Assistant, coworkers she’s come to think of as family and trust in a system she feels has failed her.

“My life has altered greatly going forward,” she said. “And unfortunately, I’ve lost trust in the people who I thought I could trust – not local people but higher up, especially the government who are continuing to give these vaccines when they know they’re not safe.”

Shoes and messages left by departing staff at Legacy Silverton Medical Center on Sept. 30.

While Hyslop went on here to cite several personal anecdotes to support the assertion, the Center for Disease Control’s website refutes the claim, stating, “To date, the systems in place to monitor the safety of these vaccines,” which number over 396 million doses between Dec. 14, 2020 and Oct. 4, 2021, “have found only two serious types of health problems after vaccination, both of which are rare. These are anaphylaxis and thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) after vaccination with J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine.”

The website goes on to explain, “Anaphylaxis can occur after any vaccination,” which is why, after receiving a COVID-19 shot, recipients are asked to wait a minimum of 15 minutes for observation. “If this occurs, vaccination providers have medicines available to effectively and immediately treat the reaction.”

And in the case of TTS, these complications are even more rare, “occurring at a rate of about seven per one million vaccinated women between 18 and 49 years old,” who opted to receive the J&J/Janssen Vaccine, and in women 50 years and older or men of any ages, almost never.

Prior to the pandemic, studies like these might have convinced Hyslop, who was previously pro-vaccine. She opted to receive not only the recommended vaccinations for someone working in healthcare but the yearly flu shot as well. But when it came time to get a COVID-19 vaccine she balked.

“Initially I had a wait-and-see feeling because it had not gone through the proper safety checks,” she said. Prior to Aug. 23 the shot offered, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, only had emergency approval from the FDA. She was concerned it had not gone through the appropriate testing. 

When word of a possible vaccination mandate reached her, wait-and-see became a dive into researching both the benefits and possible side effects of the vaccines.

Former hospital employees and their families on Sept. 30 in front of Legacy Silverton

“I didn’t just take somebody’s word for it,” she said of the quest that ended in a conviction that, not only is she vehemently opposed to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, but future vaccines as well. 

Despite the vaccine having regular FDA approval since late August, she has developed a new distrust of the science behind vaccines. 

Beyond safety protocols, she encountered personal dilemmas concerning use of fetal stem cells in the development of some vaccines. 

Though she readily admits to the knowledge that the COVID-19 vaccines do not actually contain any of these cells, vaccine development still proved a challenge to her Christian faith.

That prompted her to file for a religious exemption in response to Legacy Health’s vaccination mandate requiring all doctors, nurses, staff, students, volunteers and vendors be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18.

“This requirement is the right thing to do, and it will meet the mandates established by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee,” the Legacy notification said.

Hyslop’s exemption was denied.

“The religious exemption I applied for wasn’t light,” she said of both the application process and its subsequent review by Legacy’s Exception Work Group. “They took our names off them and then a team evaluated us as to how sincere we were.”

That team, according to the Legacy Health website, was made up of experts in spiritual care, ethics, primary care and infection prevention who reviewed  hundreds of requests for both medical and religious exemptions.

Legacy did not supply the number that were denied, but did comment that as of Oct. 5, 700 of its 14,000 employees were on medical leave for not meeting the vaccination requirements. It said 90 were in the process of complying.

One of those 90 is Jane (not her real name), who is currently using her vacation time as she awaits the required number of post-shot days to pass to be considered “fully vaccinated.”

“I was forced to get the vaccine or I would lose my job, which I’m not happy about,” Jane said.

But it’s not just the mandate itself she feels is unfair.

“They put me on a one month leave because I’m not fully vaccinated by the Oct. 18 date, which I feel is really punitive because all of the people who got their vaccine in March were able to continue working.”

Unable to procure a medical exemption – despite a condition she worried might cause her to suffer a negative reaction to the vaccine – Jane felt she had to accept the risk, as the needs of her family and her commitment to the nursing vocation made leaving her job impossible.

“I prayed about it a lot and I really felt at peace when I went in to do it,” she said. “I felt that God would protect me no matter what my decision would be. But I’m really scared for our community hospital and healthcare in general. I think we’re going down a deep hole that we’re not going to get out of.”

That hole, Jane described, “is a disservice to our patients, our community and the world as a whole because it’s not improving healthcare…

“I feel that this whole thing has basically taken the wind out of my sails as a nurse. It’s taken the desire I’ve always had to help people, which is sad because I love my profession. I see that not only in myself but the people around me in healthcare. They’re depressed. It’s affecting everybody, whether you’re vaccinated or not.”

A fully vaccinated nurse describes the situation this way: “The outcome to these harsh decisions by Legacy will not just hit the nurses, their livelihood, their families and their future, but will hit the community.”

She was among the first wave of healthcare workers to receive the vaccine but still very much sympathizes with her unvaccinated coworkers’ plight. “The loyalty that those that have served for decades is no longer there. My heart breaks for our community.”

In the wake of the Sept. 30 departures, Legacy Health has announced a myriad of system-wide “temporary service consolidations,” including that of computed tomography, mammography, and ultrasound at Legacy Silverton, a reduction of “surgeries that are not urgent or emergent” and a move toward “finding efficiencies, offering incentives, and prioritizing staff resources” in areas deemed “greatest need.”

Legacy Health maintains that it is the health of the patients that is the ultimate goal.

“At Legacy Health, the safety and care of our patients and our staff is our top priority,” Public and Community Relations Representative Kristin Whitney said. “All of our 14,000 caregivers have worked tirelessly to care for our patients and the community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. For all of our health care workers, we cannot express our gratitude enough. Their contributions and sacrifices are too many to be measured. We are deeply grateful for their service and their contributions to Legacy.”

That’s not how Hyslop sees it.

“We were heroes and now we’re zeros,” she said, “just thrown away.”

Her fully vaccinated former co-worker elaborated, “It seems Legacy has deemed their employees to just be a number, regardless of what it will do for the general public. Seems very contradictory of what they are trying to do by being so harsh on a mandate that is gray, that can allow for exceptions.”

To Legacy Health, however, the mandate leaves little room for confusion as to the ultimate goal.

“The vaccination requirement worked,” the statement on its website proclaims. “As of Oct. 5, the vaccination rate among our 14,000 employees has increased from 85 percent to 95 percent as about 1,400 more employees have started or completed a vaccine series since we announced the vaccine requirement on Aug. 4.”

It’s not something Jane is celebrating, even as she joins the ranks of the vaccinated.

“I don’t love working for a company that doesn’t stand for their employees. They pick and choose who they want to stand for and that’s discrimination,” she asserted.

Her already fully vaccinated coworker added, “Many that are pro-vaccine will argue that is what they are wanting, and that is why they feel the mandate is needed. But where is our compassion for those that see differently…? They want what is best for everyone. But… my heart says, what gives me the right to take that away from those that see different than me?  I will not judge them, as I don’t want to be judged for my actions. I have worked along these nurses for years, committed to this community, working toward better outcomes for our patients. Those unvaccinated nurses have their views, too. Vaccination isn’t a ‘one size fits all.’

“I had pride in being a part of the Silverton Hospital family. Now, I feel as though the big guys, the corporation, is tearing our family apart.”

It’s a sentiment Hyslop echoed.

She worries other, similar vaccination mandates will follow, causing others to lose their vocation in the same way she lost hers.

“Do we want this for our world?”
she asked.

Her former coworker sees the issue as being not just about vaccination but a deeper, systemic issue.

“[O]ur community has become toxic so that if you don’t see the same as your neighbor you can’t be friends… why can’t we accept that we are not all the same?”

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