Even before the Watson Clinic announced last week that it would require its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by November, a local group had planned a rally to oppose vaccine mandates.
“No blanket mandate” is the message from Lindsey Grych, a nurse practitioner and founder of the Polk chapter of Moms for America. The group formed in June with the intent to plan its first rally, which took place last Friday in downtown Lakeland, Grych said.
Grych, who works at a local clinic, said she and chapter member Nicole Murphy, a family nurse practitioner, organized the rally two to three weeks before the clinic’s announcement.
“This was not just about Watson Clinic but for workers in general to be able to choose to have body autonomy,” Grych said. Employees should not have to fear for their jobs because they don’t want to become vaccinated, she said.
“I’m not against vaccination, I got my vaccination but I don’t feel people should be forced,” Grych, 30, told The Ledger. “I feel very deeply, deeply motivated that everybody should get to make health care choices based on their personal comfort level and medical history.”
The group’s Friday demonstration in Munn Park and along Florida Avenue downtown drew about 120 supporters, she said. A second rally is planned for Sept. 18.
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As an example of somebody opposing blanket mandates, Grych cites the case of a young, healthy man with a family history of an autoimmune illness. This person would be at risk to develop adverse symptoms after getting one of the vaccines she said, referring to CDC information about instances of men ages 12-29 experiencing heart inflammation following mRNA COVID-19 vaccinations.
Attorney Kemp Brinson of Winter Haven, who specializes in employment law, said while it is legal for Watson Clinic to require a vaccination mandate, they must make reasonable accommodations. One way for an employee to get an exemption is to qualify with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Brinson said.
Another accommodation allowance could be for employees with sincerely held religious beliefs covered under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he said.
The Citizens Defending Freedom organization is seeking Watson Clinic employees “being forced the vaccine,” Grych posted on Facebook Sunday evening.
Moms for America Polk continues to move its mission beyond a website to a call for action, whether it’s a rally or through social media. In addition to the planned Sept. 18 downtown rally, Grych said a petition drive is being promoted through a local Facebook group, Health Care Freedom for Health Care Workers.
The petition has received more than 1,000 signatures so far.
At Watson Clinic, 52% of staff had not been not vaccinated as of last week, Grych said.
Brinson said there are few cases to come from challenges to the legal right of a company to impose vaccination mandates and he doesn’t see a trend or tendency for that to change.
“If employers looking at the mandate decide not to do it, it has to do more with morale and management issues,” Brinson said. “Employers can’t afford to lose a small percentage of the workforce.”