Twin Cities health care workers protest vaccine mandates

Standing in the rain for hours, outside of M Health Fairview St. John's Hospital on Saturday morning, healthcare workers from around the Twin Cities protested against recent requirements from their employers to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

"Sometimes you kind of feel like you’re in a silent minority when things are getting pushed on you," Caleb Lange with Allina Health said.

"I don’t want to put that toxic poison in my body," nurse Heidi Madison added.

The crowd called vaccine requirements a "one size fits all approach" that infringes on their freedoms.

Many in Saturday’s crowd encouraged vaccines for the elderly or those with underlying health conditions. And the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health both have deemed the COVID-19 vaccines safe and effective, with the benefits outweighing the risks. But there is skepticism because the FDA has yet to fully approve the vaccines.

Currently, the vaccines are authorized for emergency use, but full approval for the Pfizer vaccine could come as soon as next month.

"There’s worse things than death," said Dr. Kevin Peterson with Woodwind’s Hospital. "And I’m not sure if there’s going to be potential side effects."

Some in the crowd told FOX 9 their employers have given them two months to either get vaccinated or lose their jobs.

"It’s kind of heartbreaking, I mean it’s very sad. I’ve worked there for over 23 years," Heidi Madison said. "If we lose our jobs, we may lose our homes, and it may hurt our families, and that’s not right."

"If I was told today that I had to get the vaccine tomorrow… I think I would probably put in my notice," Dr. Kevin Peterson said.

"Experimental vaccines, forcing them on somebody against their will and punishing them if they don’t want it is a crime against humanity," Madison said.

It's also important to note that while this is the first time mRNA vaccines have been approved for human use, the technology has been researched by scientists for decades, the CDC states, and scientists have studied mRNA vaccines for other diseases.

State health officials have said repeatedly that the vaccine is safe and effective in stopping the spread of the coronavirus. So far, more than 3.1 million Minnesotans have received the vaccine.

Meanwhile, Minnesota is experiencing its fourth COVID wave. As of this week, about 270 people are hospitalized with the virus, triple the number from mid-July. The state's seven-day average positivity rate is 4.2 percent, below the state's 5 percent concern threshold but steadily increasing for the past three weeks.

The increasing pace of vaccinations is a nationwide trend as the delta variant surges. Federal health officials point to vaccines as the best prevention measure.

"Universally, as we look at our hospitalizations and we look at our deaths, they are overwhelmingly unvaccinated people," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, told reporters.

Fairview and Allina Health are now both requiring employees to get COVID-19 vaccines.