AURORA, Colo. — As patients and visitors pulled into UCHealth Monday morning, protesters in scrubs held up signs on the sidewalk and shared their opposition to vaccine mandates.
"I think we're all just gathering together, and you know making our voices heard that we don't believe in forced medicine," said Stephanie Thorpe, registered nurse at UCHealth.
Thorpe said she objected to her employer's policy that all staff members must be vaccinated by Oct. 1 or face termination.
“It’s a deeply held religious belief for me that I just don’t believe in defiling my body," Thorpe said.
UCHealth grants exemptions to employees with valid medical and religious reasons. On Monday, some protesters argued they didn't want the vaccine because they had "natural immunity."
"Many have already had COVID, and they do not feel they should be forced to take a medicine that they don’t agree with or feel like they need," Thorpe said.
Dr. Michelle Barron, senior medical director of infection prevention and control, disputed some of the protesters' claims.
“Even if you had COVID in the past, there is no reason not to get vaccinated and it’s in your interest because we do know that people get re-infected, and often, that reinfection is more severe than the first round," Barron said.
As of Monday morning, Barron said 90% of UCHealth employees had received the COVID-19 vaccine and she expected that percentage to grow.
"This is the most scrutinized vaccine that’s been given in our history," Barron said. “It is safe. It is highly effective, and it is the way we are going to get ourselves out of this pandemic.”
Dr. Barron said the majority of UCHealth employees disagreed with the group of protesters outside the hospital Monday.
“We think this is the right thing to do," she said. “This is not unique to us. If you look across the country, most healthcare systems are doing this."
UCHealth is offering employees a $500 bonus to be fully vaccinated by Aug. 22. Those who choose not to get the shot could lose their jobs.
"Individuals that decide to leave are probably going to decide to leave health care," Barron said. "While unfortunate, I think [those are] obviously personal decisions that people have to decide upon."
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