ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MONTHS – The debate on vaccinations led to a demonstration in front of Mercy Hospital South.
Protesters marched on Kennerly Road's public sidewalk to protest the hospital's policy that employees should be vaccinated against influenza.
However, it is unclear whether hospital staff participated in the protest. The protesters claimed to be supporters of employees seeking immunity from influenza vaccine for valid religious or medical reasons.
Nelia Abuchon, the woman who organized the protest, said she was a friend of a nurse at Mercy South Hospital who was fired this week after she was denied her religious waiver. .
The protest organizer said that her friend had been a nurse at the hospital for five years and had been granted religious exemption in the past when the facility was known as the St. Anthony Medical Center. But since Mercy bought the hospital about a year ago, it seems harder to get this exemption.
"Mercy has a policy that says they accept religious and medical exemptions and that in practice it seems that they do not accept them, they deny them," Abuchon said. "Here in Mercy South, this nurse knows no other doctor or nurse who has been granted a religious or medical exemption and, frankly, we focus here on the religious exemption because this nurse chose not to be forced to receive the blow, she was fired yesterday. "
Mercy Hospital South issued the following statement Tuesday afternoon in response to protests:
"The goal of our flu vaccination policy is simple: protection against the flu virus saves lives, especially those of our most vulnerable patients.
"Colleagues whose waiver requests have not been accepted will be notified this week and, in accordance with our policy, will not be allowed to remain employed without receiving a vaccine."
Mercy's statement goes on to say that out of more than 44,000 employees across the system, she received about 170 requests for exemption this year. The majority of these requests were approved.
Protesters added that in addition to religious and medical exemptions, it was also a matter of choice. One protester even waved a sign saying "My body, my choice". Representatives from the Missouri Coalition for Choice of Vaccine and the Missouri Coalition for Freedom of Medicine took part in the event.