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Vaccine mandate protesters gather outside Wake Forest Baptist Health

Protesters' signs read "Coercion is not consent," "God calls the shots, not U," and "My body, my choice."

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — On Saturday, a crowd of approximately 50 protesters gathered outside Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem to express their opposition to a recently-announced mandate that requires employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine or face termination.

The demonstration lasted roughly four hours. People remained on one street corner, and hospital operations were not disrupted.

Hope Anglesey has worked for seven months at Wake Forest Baptist as a CNA. 

"I use to say I was proud to be an employee of Wake Forest Baptist. I can’t say that anymore," Anglesey said. "I’m very disappointed that they’ve followed along with others on the mandate." 

Protests have popped up at other Triad hospitals, including Cone Health in Greensboro, after six major North Carolina hospital groups announced Thursday that all employees must get the COVID-19 vaccine. The hospital system includes the three hospital systems in the Triad - Cone Health, Novant Health and Wake Forest Baptist Health.  

Anglesey said she isn’t against all vaccines but is hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

"I am worried there has not been enough research done on this vaccine, Anglesey said. "The typical time it's tested and researched and administered to humans is much longer than what the COVID vaccine has been done."

Concerns around the vaccine not being fully FDA approved and the belief their rights are being taken away reflected on the signs protesters held. 

Governors of states where cases and hospitalizations are climbing have appealed publicly in recent days for full FDA approval, saying it would help combat vaccine hesitancy and could also clear the way for more businesses to require their employees to be inoculated. 

One counter-protester, Ryan White, stood alone with his sign supporting the vaccination mandate.

He said he saw the crowd while heading to the grocery store and felt he needed to take a stand.  

"My wife is a nurse at this facility. She is at her wits' end of dealing with this, week in and week out. This past year took an emotional toll on me via her," White said. "The reason this thing is mutating is people won’t simply get a vaccine."

WFBH said that all employees must be fully vaccinated by October 31.

In response to Saturday's demonstration, Wake Forest Baptist Health shared the following statement with WFMY News 2:

"Wake Forest Baptist Health recognizes that COVID-19 vaccination, and specifically making it a requirement, is an issue with strong opinions.

"We greatly value all of our teammates who have shown such dedication to our patients and their loved ones, and to each other during the pandemic and we respect their rights to have their voices heard in a peaceful and civil manner.

"Vaccination against infectious diseases is necessary to protect everyone who counts on us.

"The science shows that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and they save lives. We would never ask our teammates to do something we did not feel was safe.

"There are many ways within our organization in which teammates can bring forward any concern and we encourage them to take advantage of these opportunities and to speak with their leaders if they have questions about our vaccination requirement."

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