To Sunshine Post, her opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine is, above all, a matter of choice.
The Spring Hill mother of three works as an office administrator for a doctor associated with Williamson Medical Group, an organization that consists of more than 750 board-certified physicians supported by about 1,800 employees.
As hospitals and medical centers across Tennessee begin to announce new policies requiring their employees to become vaccinated for COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing, Post said she is preparing for the tough decision of either giving in to her employer’s wishes or leaving a job she has loved for five years.
Post said she has not yet been contacted by her managers specifically about mandatory vaccinations.
“It is a day-by-day process,” Post told The Daily Herald. “I have been preparing myself. At the end of the day, I would leave.”
Post shared her thoughts after a large group of people gathered for a protest in neighboring Maury County at Maury County Regional Medical Center in Columbia, voicing opposition to the medical center’s plan to require all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the beginning of the new year.
Maury Regional Medical Center’s directive to workers, doctors and volunteers follows the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services new policy issued on Nov. 4, requiring the COVID-19 vaccination of eligible staff at health care facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs. The option of weekly COVID-19 testing in lieu of the vaccine, offered by a similar mandate rolled out by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, does not apply to federal medical workers.
Maury Regional Medical Center accepts almost $100 million in federal Medicare and Medicaid funds out of its $167 million budget.
“Everyone feels like they are doing the right thing,” Post said. “It is a constant battle that no one is going to win. Both sides think they are doing the right thing.”
Rita Thompson, Maury Regional’s communications director, said last week that the hospital is aware that there are employees who are strongly opposed to the recent COVID-19 mandate for health care workers.
“While we have always supported vaccination in an effort to end the pandemic and save lives, we fully respect the opinions and beliefs of these individuals and our hope is that we will not lose a single employee as a result of this mandate.”
Not anti-vaccine, no judgment
Post, who said her entire family just got their annual flu shots, emphasized that she is not in opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine or others receiving it. She is just not comfortable with either her or her family receiving it.
“I think we have not done our due diligence, as for the studies that have been done on it,” Post said. “Now that they are mandating it, it has gotten personal as far as what I put in my body. If I do give in and get vaccinated, I fear they are going to come after my children.”
She said some of her friends are planning to have their young children vaccinated for the virus.
“To each their own,” Post said. “There is no judgment whatsoever. There is just so much information coming from both sides. You just don’t know which one to believe.”
Post said a recent incident involving a close friend, who was vaccinated and later sent to the emergency room due to an enlarged heart, fuels her hesitancy.
Research shared by Harvard Medical School in July found that of the millions of vaccine doses administered in the U.S., about 1,000 cases of heart inflammation were identified.
Similarly, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports as of Nov. 10, its Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System has received 1,793 reports of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) or pericarditis among people ages 12–29 years who received COVID-19 vaccines. Most cases have been reported after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), particularly in male adolescents and young adults after the second dose. Through follow-up, including medical record reviews, the CDC and FDA have confirmed 1,049 reports of myocarditis or pericarditis.
For Post, and others who have shared similar viewpoints in recent days, the ultimate concern is one of freedom and the preservation of an individual’s right to choose.
“They are taking away my freedom of choice, which is my biggest concern,” Post said.
“Second is my concern about what the vaccine could do to me in the future. This has become very political, which is very annoying. I am not trying to be anti-vaccine in any way. My biggest thing is freedom of choice. If people want to get vaccinated, I have no judgements toward anybody for it. I am not going to go out there and tell them not to get vaccinated. I will tell them that they are not going to vaccinate me.”
On Thursday, Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles ordered a “state of emergency” for Maury County “protecting health care workers” from vaccine mandates that would force them to quit or be terminated from their jobs if they did not get the vaccine, putting a strain on medical institutions. The scope of the order is to be determined.
Also Reps. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, and Brandon Ogles, R-Franklin, the mayor’s cousin, have submitted legislation to the Tennessee General Assembly that would protect workers who do not wish to be vaccinated from intimidation or harassment.
“The CMS mandate about having our nurses and doctors to require a vaccination is wrong, 100% wrong,” Cepicky said at the recent protest at Maury Regional Medical Center.
Post said that her managers at Williamson Medical Group have not yet contacted her or her fellow employees about mandatory vaccinations.
The medical group did not respond to a request for comment made by The Daily Herald by press time.
“I hope it does not come down to that,” Post said.
“I believe they want to take care of their employees and do what is best for us. It is not an easy situation at all because I love them and what they do for their employees and the community. I just feel that I am doing what is best for me and best for my family, which is what everybody is doing right now, just in different ways.”
Reach Mike Christen at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @MikeChristenCDH and on Instagram @michaelmarco. Please consider supporting his work and that of other Daily Herald journalists by subscribing to the publication.