Dozens protest outside Jacksonville hospital against requirement for staff to get COVID-19 vaccines

Dozens gathered in front of Baptist Hospital in Jacksonville Sunday to protest vaccine mandates.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Dozens protested in front of Baptist Health’s downtown Jacksonville campus on Saturday, saying hospital workers should not be required to get COVID-19 vaccinations.

Baptist is among several hospital systems in Jacksonville to implement a coronavirus vaccine mandate for its employees.

Baptist Health is requiring all employees to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 15.

Mayo Clinic Jacksonville and Ascension St. Vincent’s have announced similar requirements for employees.

Protesters outside Baptist’s downtown campus on Sunday held signs supporting the medical workers’ right to make their own choice about vaccinations.

RELATED: Gov. DeSantis objects to vaccine mandates at hospitals

“We’re standing up for doctors, nurses and medical freedom,” said Kallie Smith, a health care worker. “Bodily autonomy and informed consent.”

Health care worker Susan Flynn said the demand is unfair.

“We’ve been working for a year and a half with masks on with no vaccine. Why all of a sudden do we need a vaccine?” Flynn said.

Protesters advocate against vaccine mandates for hospital workers. (WJXT)

Dr. Jonathan Kantor with the Penn Center for Global Health said health care workers should get vaccinated not for themselves but for their patients.

“If they’re exposed to COVID-19 because the nurse taking care of them was reluctant to get the vaccine, obviously, that might not be the right thing to do. And we’ve got to think about how to protect our most vulnerable,” Kantor said.

He said more than 3 billion vaccines have been given worldwide.

“If there was some immediate horrible side effect that could compete with the horrible problems of dying from COVID, we would have already seen that in the over 3 billion shots that people have received so far,” Kantor said.

Baptist Health released a statement about the vaccination requirement saying, “In keeping with the organization’s flu shot policy, Baptist Health will grant exemptions for medical contraindications and sincerely held religious beliefs.”