WORCESTER, Mass. - Health care employees have a vaccine mandate deadline approaching, and some took to the streets to protest it Sunday.
UMass Memorial Health employees are required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine or an exemption by November 1. Right now, people who are unvaccinated are facing potential suspension and termination.
More than 80 demonstrators gathered at the intersection of Belmont and Plantation Streets in Worcester, just down the road from the hospital's entrance.
Demonstrators said they are not against the vaccine, but are in favor of being able to choose whether or not they get it. Some in attendance said they're also standing up for police, state workers and anyone who is being mandated to get the vaccine.
"We're not against the vaccines, we're not anti-vaxxers at all," rally participant Jackie Fashjian said. "We're just pro-choice. We believe that we should all have the freedom to choose what goes into our own bodies. It's all about the freedom of bodily autonomy. And the fact that it's getting forced onto people through coercion and blackmail and bribery from the government is just really messed up."
UMass Memorial Health said about 90% of their employees are already vaccinated.
Organizers of Sunday's demonstration said a larger protest is being scheduled for October 31.