Duke Health workers protest vaccination rules; 23% of employees are not vaccinated

Coronavirus

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Health care workers, hospital staff, and activists took to the streets outside of Duke University Hospital Friday demanding that Duke Health not require employees to get the COVID vaccine.

This protest along Erwin Road comes a week after Duke Health announced they will require all employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 21.

Protesters called Duke Health’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate unconstitutional and argued that health care workers and hospital staff should have the right to decide if they want to get the vaccine.

“I feel like that needs to be an individual choice and we need to decide what’s best for our families,” said Kristie Rasmussen, a nurse at Duke Regional Hospital.

Rasmussen said she has not been vaccinated and she does not plan to get the shot.

She said she is prepared to lose her job if it comes to that.

“I know that sometimes we need to take a stand and choose what we believe compared with the security of a job,” Rasmussen said.

As of Friday morning, Duke Health officials said 23 percent of their employees had not been vaccinated.

“We hoped we would be able to reach very high levels of vaccinations among our team members by simply encouraging them to get the vaccine, but we have not — we have fallen short,” said Katie Galbraith, president of Duke Regional Hospital. “We need to keep everyone safe, and the vaccine will help us do that.”

Duke Health currently has more than 20,000 employees, which means as many as 4,600 (23 percent) of these individuals could lose their jobs if they do not get the COVID vaccine or provide a medical or religious exemption by Sept. 21.

Duke Health is already experiencing a shortage of nurses, and CBS 17 asked officials if they think they should fire the health care workers at a time where they are already short-staffed.

“We don’t want to lose anybody, but we believe this is a very necessary step for us,” Galbraith said. “This is really about safety and the tremendous responsibility we have as health care providers in caring for our community.”

Galbraith said they think most of the 23 percent of those who have not been vaccinated will comply and get the vaccine by the deadline.

CBS 17 asked Duke Health how many of their nurse positions are vacant, but they said that information was not available.

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