BRICK – Around 30 people – some of whom were health workers – brought signs, the American flag and a lot of energy to protest the requirement of hospital staff being vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The protest took place in front of the Hackensack Meridian Health’s Ocean Medical Center in Brick. Gov. Phil Murphy had signed an executive order earlier this month declaring that all who work in health care facilities and other high-risk areas must be vaccinated or take tests every week.
Most of those present said the mandate removed freedom of choice while others questioned the science of the vaccines being administered. Some of those participating in the protest said they were vaccinated while others said they were not and did not trust the science of it.
Many who spoke to Jersey Shore Online were not comfortable in providing their names and no one could identify who organized the rally. Those who participated said they learned of it through social media.
Ben Goldstein, director of public relations at Hackensack Meridian Health noted “these vaccines are safe and effective. Hackensack Meridian Health supports the right of team members to express their beliefs peacefully and in a way that does not jeopardize or disturb the continuity of care for our patients.
“COVID-19 vaccines are proven to be safe and highly effective at preventing hospitalizations and death from the virus. Over the past year, we have used every tool at our disposal to protect patients and team members from COVID-19 and will continue to do so,” Goldstein said.
Goldstein added, “we are requiring vaccinations for all team members to control that spread of this deadly virus; keep our patients, team members and visitors safe; and to comply with Governor Murphy’s Executive Order signed on August 6, requiring health care and other frontline workers to be vaccinated or undergo regular COVID testing.
“We have 2,700 employees here at this hospital. We have a process in place where team members can file for an exemption,” Goldstein said. The internal deadline for that was August 16 and hospital officials are in the process of reviewing those requests. For Moderna and Pfizer vaccines which require two shots, hospital workers would need to have their first shot by October 1. The deadline for the second shot is November 13.
It was noted that the number of hospital staff receiving their vaccination has spiked since the governor’s mandate. The ratio jumped from 71% to about 80% network wide. “We want to keep our members and our patients safe,” Goldstein said.
Rebecca Banach of Beachwood is in the medical field but doesn’t work at the hospital. She came out to lend her voice and raise a sign to support the rally’s purpose.
“I feel that mandating something is not necessarily the best course of action. I have heard of incidents where vaccinated persons are still able to transfer this disease. I just want the nurses to be able to have their own choices like the patients,” she added. Other members of her family came out to the protest as well.
“If you want the vaccine, you should get it, but don’t force it. It’s not fair,” another member of the Banach family said.
“I actually got the vaccine. When it first came out and was available at the hospital. I did it because I was thinking about other people. I didn’t want to give them the virus. Now they tell you whether you are vaccinated or not you can still transfer it, so its choice. I’m here to support freedom of choice. America is about freedom and we have the right to choose. It is our bodies and it is our right to choose,” David Banach said.
“If I want to have something injected in my body that I think will be beneficial to me that is my right if I feel it may harm me or my unborn child or my children than I have the right to deny it, I don’t want it,” he added.
Another nearby protestor didn’t wish to disclose their name because she said she was afraid. “I do work here and I don’t want to have a problem. I love where I work – it does not have anything to do with this building. The people are awesome and work very hard. I am not vaccinated. My husband is; I am not. It is freedom of choice and that is what we asking for.”
She added, “my daughters who are lined up here are not vaccinated. It is about it being mandatory. If we start here what else are they going to tell us must be? Where do we draw the line? I hope the governor hears us.”
Dressed in a stars and stripes top, Point Pleasant Beach resident Marjorie Warga came out to support the workers and free choice. “You should not be mandating any type of experimental medication or whatever you call it. Being vaccinated is my prerogative. It is an experiment not a vaccine. We have no idea what the ramifications are going to be in the years to come because the studies have not been produced. No one should be forced to put something in their body.”
Former Brick resident Dave Anderson was visiting the area when he learned of the rally. “I’m actually vaccinated but I am all about choice. My ex-wife was a nurse here. What is their choice getting the vaccine or lose their jobs?”
“I’m a physician and what I’ve seen since February, I’ve never seen in 35 years,” said another protestor who declined to identify himself. He stood beside holding a sign with a health worker who also raised concerns about the vaccines themselves.
“I have a patient who got the vaccine in May and she has not been the same since. She has chronic fatigue, neurological changes and brain fog, abdominal swelling and it is all because of the shot,” she said. “We’ve seen numerous cases that people aren’t hearing about.”
“Mandatory vaccinations are the best way to achieve herd immunity and protect our communities from the deadly variants that are threatening to wreak havoc in the months ahead,” Goldstein said.