JACKSON, Mich. — The Henry Ford Health System became the first in Michigan to require its workforce to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
A show of hesitancy and anger in Jackson Saturday against the mandatory vaccination requirement for Henry Ford Health System employees. Hundreds of people showing up for the protest outside of Henry Ford Allegiance.
According to the CDC from Dec 2020 to June 2021 more than 310 million doses of the vaccine were administered in the United States with just over 5,000 reports of death among people who got a vaccine.
We spoke to some people in attendance at the protest.
"I'm out here in support of the Henry Ford allegiance employees and their protest against Henry Ford wanting to enforce all the employees to have a vaccination and not giving them a choice, basically saying if you don't get the vaccination you're gonna have a job," Jackson County resident Paul Hauglie said.
Health officials like Henry Ford Allegiance Vice President Population Health Dr. Courtland Keteyian understand the right to free speech but believes the pandemic has become very polarizing.
"Certainly people have the right to express their point of view and you know I think the vaccine whether it's been wearing masks or vaccines," Keteyian said. "I think you know COVID has become a very polarizing topic and there are folks that feel that they shouldn't have to get vaccinated and there's a variety of reasons. I think that our employees are very reflective of the community we live in and so the reasons that our employee cite are very similar to ones here in the community. There's concerns about it not being out long enough, is it safe, effective. There's folks that you know want to have that autonomy to choose, they believe it's sort of more of a personal choice.”
Protesters worried this mandate is unconstitutional.
"It’s just strictly unconstitutional and if we give away any bit of our freedoms we give away all of our freedoms," Jackson County Stand Up Michigan Treasurer Brian Such said.
There are exceptions to the requirement for medical and religious purposes but Keteyian says, “Both medical and religious would be very very unusual or very rare circumstances. Most everyone will need to have the vaccine.”
Keteyian says more work needs to be done to vaccinate its workforce.
"Right now we're at about 60 percent at Allegiance. We’re lagging the overall health system," Keteyian said. "The overall health system is a little closer to I want to say 67, 68 percent so there's definitely still work that we have to do. But we've seen that tick up gradually over time as more people have made that decision and we've seen a bump recently with the mandate in place now.”
Henry Ford Health System employees have until Sept 10, 2021 to be fully vaccinated against COVID at which point things may change for those who have not gotten the shot.
"They would have their employment suspended and there's a sort of brief a brief window of time to get that corrected and compliant but at that point in time somebody would be suspended," Keteyian said. "The expectation is really that you have to have both your doses done by Sept 10 for those MRNA vaccines or you’d have to have a single dose done of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.”
Trinity Health made the same requirements soon after Henry Ford. Experts say it likely won't stop there.
“It has been an active conversation with the Michigan Hospital Association," Keteyian said. So, I do know there's been a number of systems talking about it. I think it's a matter of time until we see that this is much more widely implemented in the state."
Most recent data from the State says there are 881 confirmed COVID cases in Michigan. In Jackson County there are on average around five new daily COVID cases reported. Overall in mid-Michigan, the cases have flattened from a peak in March.
But, COVID cases are starting to rise in certain parts of the country. Health experts are attributing that to the Delta Variant. They continue to urge the unvaccinated to get their shot.
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