Protesting ChristianaCare mandate: ‘We’re getting treated like dirt’

The hospital's new policy drew vocal protesters. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

The hospital's new policy drew vocal protesters. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Unproven and debunked assertions abounded outside Christiana Hospital, the largest in Delaware on Monday night.

Those claims include a belief that the COVID-19 vaccine was developed too fast and everybody taking it is part of the experiment.

Others said side effects are legion but are being suppressed by health officials and the news media, or that the statistics showing the recent coronavirus surge is almost entirely among unvaccinated people are fake or doctored.

Some argued the shots are part of a plot to shrink the world’s population, and that forcing workers to get vaccinated or lose their jobs violates the post-World War II Nuremberg Code, a set of ethical principles governing medical experiments — not vaccinations — and stipulating that voluntary consent is essential.

About 50 people chanted “No mandates!” and waved posters such as one that proclaimed “Termination for Non-Vaccination is Discrimination.’’ They were part of the second demonstration in three days over ChristianaCare’s decision to require vaccinations of all 14,000 employees and contractors or else face termination.

Only a few of Monday’s protesters actually work for Christina Care, however.

Jennine Gordon, a ChristianaCare employee, said she’s prepared to lose her job. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

One was nurse Jennine Gordon, who carried a sign that said, “Last Years Heroes This Years Unemployed.”

She waved it to signify that health care workers were lauded for caring for COVID-19 patients in 2020, but those working for Christiana Care now face job loss if they don’t get either the one-shot Johson & Johnson vaccine, or one shot of the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccines by Sept. 21— six weeks from now.

“We’re getting treated like dirt if we don’t get the vaccine,’’ Gordon told WHYY News.

Gordon says she won’t.

She’s protesting the mandate publicly because she wants “to have the right to choose what goes in my body or not. That’s all we’re asking.”

So why is she against getting vaccinated?

“Because of all the deadly side effects I’ve seen in patients here,” Gordon said.

Gordon added that she trusts the doctors around the nation and world who have reported serious side effects in patients, even though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that they are rare.

ChristianaCare spokesman Hiran Ratnayake said Tuesday that about 70% of hospital staff have been inoculated, and none have become seriously ill or died. He did not provide any data about patients.

So Gordon is prepared to lose her job, and trusts in God to help through the ordeal.

“I’ll try to find another nursing job or I’ll just do something simple,’’ said Gordon, who added that she’s been a nurse for 23 years. “God hasn’t let me down yet. I don’t want to be dead two days after the vaccine and then my kids don’t have a mother.”

Demonstrators criticized ChristianaCare’s new mandate to get vaccinated or be fired. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

A nurse named Ginny, who agreed to be photographed but didn’t want to provide her last name for fear of retribution by ChristianaCare, said no one should be forced to get vaccinated under the threat of losing their livelihood.

“Someone wants to take the vaccine, that’s their choice,’’ she said. “But no one’s job should be tied to whether they take a vaccine or not, especially if it’s used under emergency use authorization.”

She said the clinical trials done before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the vaccines for emergency use were inadequate. Even if the FDA does issue full approval, she said she doesn’t trust the research and won’t get vaccinated.

“Whoever is taking the vaccine right now, you are the trial,’’ she said.

As for losing her job, Ginny said she will seek a “religious exemption,’’ one of the two allowed by ChristianaCare. The other is for medical reasons.

“I’m a Christian,’’ she said.

Ratyanake did not specify the criteria that would be used, but said employees “who have a sincerely held religious belief that conflicts with the COVID-19 vaccination requirement may request a religious accommodation.”

Doctor: COVID-19 ‘spreading among unvaccinated people’

The first protest Saturday outside the hospital’s main entrance in Stanton, a few miles from Newark, drew a quick response from ChristianaCare’s chief physician executive.

Dr. Ken Silverstein said nearly 100 health systems across the country, including some but not all in Delaware, have made vaccination a condition of employment.

“This important, life-saving safety standard supports our continued ability to serve our neighbors as respectful, expert, caring partners in their health,’’ he said. The spread of the more-contagious delta variant “has tipped the scales in our effort to balance the right to personal freedom with the right to having a safe workplace.”

Saying the mandate was based on science and facts, Silverstein added, “The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and approved. They are not experimental. Hundreds of millions of doses have been given under the most intense scrutiny in medical history. We know more about the safety of these vaccines than we’ve ever known about a vaccine so soon after it has become available.”

“Getting inoculated is the best way to protect each other,” he said, and emphasized that “the rapid COVID-19 resurgence that we are currently experiencing is the result of the virus spreading among unvaccinated people.”

Protesters gathered on both sides of Churchmans Road. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

The Delaware Healthcare Association, which represents hospitals and clinical care facilities statewide, also put out a statement this week urging vaccination.

The group’s CEO, Republican former Delaware House Majority Leader Wayne Smith, said he understands that some of the 25,000 health care workers in Delaware are reluctant or resistant. He hopes full FDA approval persuades many to change their minds.

“It would not surprise me if, when full approval comes, that you see some employees probably show more willingness to get vaccinated,’’ Smith said.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal