'I will not back down': Health care workers protest employer COVID-19 vaccine requirements

NOW: ’I will not back down’: Health care workers protest employer COVID-19 vaccine requirements

GRAFTON, Wis. (CBS 58)-- Some health care workers aren't willing to get vaccinated and they don't appreciate new requirements from their employers saying they have to.

Advocate Aurora Health is requiring all employees to be vaccinated by Oct. 15. Froedtert Health is requiring all employees to be vaccinated by Nov. 1. Both systems are allowing for religious and medical exemptions.

Nurses, doctors and their supporters protested against these policies outside of an Advocate Aurora hospital in Grafton on Wednesday, Aug. 11. 

"I've spent 18 months almost, working in this hospital, caring for patients without a vaccine, and I don't appreciate that all of the sudden I'm deemed dangerous or contagious," Mandy Dugan, an Advocate Aurora Health nurse, said.

As a nurse and an American, Dugan said she has the right to turn down the vaccine, even though her employer is requiring it.

"We, as any Americans, deserve to say no. It's our medical choice. We find risk. We're saying no," Dugan said.

Other protesters said the vaccine, how it was made and tested, goes against their religious beliefs.

"My God will not allow that. I serve him. I live for an audience of one and I cannot, in my conscious, take that," Trina Moede, a Froedtert Health employee, said.

Moede and other employees worry the exemptions won't be approved.

"The wording of it is that it could be denied, and so we're just standing up for our rights," Moede said.

Dugan also plans on applying for a religious exemption. If it's not approved, she's prepared to be unemployed.

"I am fearful, but I will not back down. I've had a very good, successful nursing career for 11 years and I'll walk away from it," Dugan said.

Both Advocate Aurora Health and Froedtert Health sent statements to CBS 58 about the ongoing protests.

“We continue to believe that requiring vaccines for all our team members is the right thing to do to keep our patients, communities and each other safe and healthy. We have been alerted that protests are planned in some of our communities. We respect our team members’ rights to peaceful protest and at the same time our top priority is to provide high quality, safe care for our patients who depend on us," a Advocate Aurora Health spokesperson said in a statement to CBS 58.

"Froedtert Health respects the right of staff and providers to engage in activity protected by federal law. We have implemented a mandatory vaccination program based on our belief that such a program is necessary to provide a safe environment for our staff and providers and for the families, patients and the diverse communities we serve," a Froedtert Health spokesperson said in a statement to CBS 58. "Safety is a shared responsibility for anyone employed by our health network. The COVID-19 pandemic continues, the highly contagious Delta variant is spreading and rates of infection, illness and hospitalization are rising. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death. Vaccination is the best way to protect our staff, patients, families and communities."

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