AKRON, Ohio — Hundreds of people lined Market Street in Akron Monday evening in front of Summa Health. They were there to protest the hospital system’s vaccine mandate.
“I have some friends who are some nurses,” said Dan Tutolo. “We have no problem with people choosing to vaccinate themselves, or choosing to wear a mask, but we believe it’s not right to tell people their livelihood is threatened if they don’t choose to do the same.”
Summa Health’s vaccine policy states that all employees must be vaccinated by the end of October or face discipline, including termination.
Earlier this month, Ohio Hospital Association recommended hospitals require vaccination for all staff.
“I had a feeling it would be coming,” said Samantha Taylor, an O.R. Nurse at Summa Health for the last 10 years.
She’s unvaccinated. Taylor said she’s not against the vaccine, but wants more time to make the decision for herself.
“I’m waiting for just more research and more studies to come out,” said Taylor.
She held a sign at Monday’s protest that said ‘No Jab, No Job.’ She said she attended the protest for herself, but also for other coworkers who are too scared to speak out against the mandate.
“I am a little bit nervous but I do feel like it’s important to take a stand for what you believe in. I feel like it’s my right to decide what I put in my body and I’m not ready to get the vaccine,” she said.
Stevie Vetters is an unvaccinated resident physician at Summa Health. He spoke to News 5 on his own behalf and said does not represent Summa Health.
He said he is not against the vaccine, but is uncomfortable with a vaccine mandate.
“I have felt a lot of pressure,” said Vetters.
He said he had COVID-19 and believes for people with underlying risk factors, the vaccine is the best line of defense for them.
“Over 65, that had obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, I think those populations should heavily consider the vaccination on their own accord and I would highly recommend it,” said Vetters. “ I think for those that have had COVID it’s not as important to get the vaccine, unless they have the risk factors.”
Vetters said he is not sure if he will get vaccinated.
“I would hope they respect my decision,” he said.
But he is nervous that if the mandate stays in place, valuable front-line workers will be forced to leave the hospital.
“Staffing is very low right now, like everywhere it’s a labor shortage, but it’s unfortunate because these ICUs, specifically, we usually have 2 patients per nurse during the day. A lot of nurses upstairs have 3 patients right now and I think it’s verging on unsafe for patients,” said Vetters.
Tutolo said he believes more protests like Monday’s will continue to pop up if more places of work mandate the vaccine.
“It’s very alarming when we see freedoms being dropped or mandates being dropped that limits people’s freedoms,” he said.
News 5 reached out to Summa Health for a response to Monday’s protest. Mike Bernstein, the director of corporate communications for the hospital, said this:
“We understand there are varying feelings about the COVID vaccine and we respect the right of people to peacefully share their perspective. Ultimately, our COVID vaccination policy is based on science and supports our mission and promise as a healthcare organization to care for our community. The policy remains in place.”