INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Hundreds came out on the hottest day of the year to protest a mandate by IU Health requiring employees to get the coronavirus vaccine.
Organizers were pleased with the turnout of employees in the health care profession and others who support the cause.
The protest happened Saturday afternoon at the beginning of the downtown canal in the shadow of several IU Health and Indiana University School of Medicine buildings. Chastity Drennan and other IU Health employees want to force the health care group from making the choice of getting the COVID vaccine or lose their jobs.
“It’s very touching,” Drennan said. “There’s been several times I’ve almost been in tears over everybody coming together because when this all came about I really thought I was alone.”
Drennan’s reluctance comes from several reasons: the short time the vaccine has been around, the lack of long-term studies and data on the effects, and the push by employers to get one or face the consequences.
“We are educated enough to save your life. We are educated enough to advocate for our patients,” Drennan said. “But we’re not smart enough or medically educated enough to stand up for our rights or our freedom to choose what we put into our bodies?”
Chastity’s mother-in-law Teresa Rinnert hasn’t been vaccinated but she said, “My husband has,” and then laughed.
Her husband came out Saturday wearing the same red “My body, My choice” shirt.
“He is not worried about side effects,” Rinnert said. “He’s OK with it. Myself, I’m worried about side effects. We don’t know enough about it, but I want to stand up for this because I have grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I don’t want these mandates down the road for them to deal with.”
The protest lasted for hours and included remarks from state and congressional representatives, anti-vaccine advocates, and IU Health employees.
An online petition against IU Health’s effort now has 11,000 signatures.
Still, as of now, IU Health employees must be fully vaccinated by Sept. 1 and Community Health Network employees by Sept. 15, or face the consequences.
Employees can apply for exemptions for medical or religious reasons, which will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Drennan hopes Saturday’s turnout, especially in the heat, sends a message. “I hope IU Health opens their eyes to this.”
IU Health declined to provide anything Saturday beyond its statement to us when they made the announcement on June 1.