Approximately 25 protesters gathered Sunday afternoon in front of Johnston UNC Health in Smithfield to protest a recent decision by hospital administrators making COVID vaccinations mandatory for all employees. Hospital employees, staff from other hospitals, family and friends held signs to stand against the policy. The protest was peaceful and well-organized.
UNC Health recently announced that employees working at all hospitals and clinics in the Triangle, including at Johnston Health in Clayton and Smithfield, will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021. Employees can request medical or religious exemptions.
Johnston Health has about 1,850 employees. That total increases to about 2,400 with contractors, community physicians, volunteers and others.
Alan Wolf, Director of News with UNC Health, said the percentage who have received their vaccine is not currently known. That’s due to several factors, including turnover and the fact that many received their vaccine in the community and have not reported to employee health. Johnston Health estimates about two-thirds have been vaccinated.
Johnston Health released the following statement Monday:
Since the pandemic began, UNC Health’s top priority has been keeping our patients and staff healthy and safe. That mission has led us to take every step possible to protect people, including securing PPE, expanding testing and enacting visitor restrictions.
We understand our decision to mandate vaccinations has disappointed some members of our team. We’ve had a greater number who are already vaccinated appreciative of the decision.
We believe that a mandatory vaccine program is in the best interest of public health and is essential for the safety of our patients, teammates and communities.
UNC Health is grateful for the hard work and sacrifices of our heroic health workers during the pandemic. This vaccine requirement is designed to provide a critical layer of protection for everyone. Current infection rates overwhelmingly are in unvaccinated people who are being infected with the Delta variant. Similarly, those hospitalized with the COVID-19 virus are more likely to be unvaccinated.
Another protest in planned today (Monday) at 6:00pm in front of the Johnston UNC Health campus in Clayton.