Federal vaccine mandate draws the ire of coast anti-mandate group

Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 7:43 PM CST
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Health care workers are latest focus of anti vaccine mandate activists.

Gulf Coast Against Mandates has called for a rally for health care workers on December 4, two days before workers nationwide would have to get their first COVID shots in order to be fully vaccinated by the January deadline.

Almost 14,000 people belong to the Gulf Coast Against Mandates group. Hundreds have said they support a rally at Memorial Hospital at Gulfport.

“This is not a Memorial mandate,” said Tony Alves, Director of Human Resources at the hospital. “This is coming down from CMS. We have to adhere to it because of our status... since we’re a community hospital, and we want to keep doing what we’re doing.”

The mandate was issued November 4 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services . It affects 17 million health care workers at facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. So far, the mandate has not moved the needle much. Currently, 68% of Memorial’s employees are vaccinated.

“We have had a slight increase on the employees that have come to the health center and gotten the first dosage of the COVID vaccine,” Alves said.

Ultimately, hospital leaders hope they will not lose any employees because of the mandate. Memorial already has more than 100 open positions for registered nurses.

“We’ve put in different steps to help mitigate loss of employees, because we do not need to loose any of our employees.”

The mandate provides for exemptions for religious or medical reasons. But Alves said most of those who oppose the vaccine are simply worried about potential side effects.

“For the most part, a lot of the ones that are just like, ‘Tony, I’m not interested in religious accommodations, I’m not interested in medical accommodations, it’s just that this is so new that I’m uncertain of what it will do to my long-term health and I’m hesitant to get it,’” Alves said.

“When I talk to those employees who are completely against vaccination, they tend to lean more towards the uncertainty of the vaccine. They say things like ‘this thing was rolled out so quickly.’ ‘We haven’t seen what the long-term effects of these vaccines are.’ So that gives them that anxiety and hesitation when it comes to getting this.”

Despite multiple messages, no one from the anti-mandate group responded to our request for comment.

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