NASHVILLE, Tennessee – A crowd of about 50 people gathered at the Capital Lawn in Nashville on Saturday to rally for vaccine choice on Saturday.
The issue, the group said via a Facebook post leading up to Saturday’s rally, is “pretty simple.”
“There are plenty of other things we can talk about,” the one graphic reads, “but the core is MEDICAL TYRANNY vs MEDICAL FREEDOM.”
The event was in reaction to protest to Governor Bill Lee’s push for residents to get vaccinated. At a press briefing in July the governor said, “The most effective tool against COVID, including the Delta variant, is the vaccine and we encourage Tennesseans to pursue that.”
Many in Saturday’s crowd were healthcare workers who said they are worried about losing their jobs if they refuse to take the vaccine.
Kelly Altgillbers, organizer and spokesperson for the group Tennessee Coalition for Vaccine Choice, works in the emergency room of a local hospital.
Altgillbers said that as a condition of her employment, there is a certain date by which she must be vaccinated, or else she has to voluntarily resign.
“I don’t need a vaccine that doesn’t work, where not one person is aware of the risks. Trying to take away our freedom. Our liberty. This is not America,” Altgillbers said when asked about her choice not to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
“I want the hospitals and legislators alike to know that we won’t be coerced to receive this jab. They need to be supporting us on that,” she added.
On July 26, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AMMC), released a statement: “Due to the recent COVID-19 surge and the availability of safe and effective vaccines, our health care organizations and societies advocate that all health care and long-term care employers require their workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Furthermore, the AMMC stated “employers should consider any applicable state laws on a case-by-case basis.”
In April, the Tennessee House passed a bill prohibiting state and local governments from mandating COVID-19 vaccines. However, some exceptions allow healthcare organizations to mandate vaccines. For instance, public hospitals can still choose to mandate vaccines for their employees. Meanwhile, other medical centers and hospitals are requiring their employees to get vaccinated.
Fellow nurse Taren also agreed with Altgillbers’ sentiments. She explained: “You’re a nurse or a CNA and you’re being forced to get a vaccine. How hard did you work to get in a position where you may be retaliated against. I don’t care if you choose to get vaccinated, so don’t care if I choose not to. This is my choice.”
Clinical researcher Reiner gave a bit of a different perspective.
Reiner, a former Air Force Veteran, said that vaccine mandates are “government overreach trying to tell us what to do. If a doctor tries to push a vaccine on you, ask them about informed consent. Then ask them to explain the four basic principles of medical ethics. A lot of individuals don’t know their own rights. We stand by the basic principle that anyone with a sane mind can make this decision.”
Reiner concluded his speech asking the attendants: “Who controls who? The government has stripped you of informed consent.”
According to the Tennessee State Health Department, Davidson County has had a total of 102,203 cases of COVID-19 – 999 of which resulted in the death of the patient. Meanwhile, the county reports that there are 4,544 active cases, with 414 new cases as of Friday.
Statewide, 6,155,963 vaccinations have been reported.
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Olivia Adams is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Follow Olivia on Twitter.