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LIGHTNING PHOTOS: Pardee employees protest vaccine mandate

More than a hundred protesters chanting "my body my choice" while waving signs and flags marched several blocks and demonstrated on U.S. 64 on Saturday against Pardee Hospital’s employee vaccine mandate.

The peaceful rally lasted just over an hour and marked yet another demonstration of how government-ordered public health mandates have divided workplaces, school populations and businesses.
The protesters, most but not all of them Pardee employees, carried signs that said “My Body My Choice,” “Stop the Mandate. Mandate Freedom,” “Pro-Vaccine, Anti-Mask,” “If Fully Vaccinated Can Get It and Spread, Why Aren’t They Being Tested?” “Discriminatory Brain Swabs Must Go,” “Keep Your EUA (emergency use authorization) Experiment Thing Away From Me,” “Unvaccinated Lives Matter,” “Jab or Job Is Not OK,” “Unmasked Unmuzzled Unvaccinated Unfraid,” “Last Year’s Heroes This Year’s Expendables,” and more.
Misty Frazier, an MRI tech at Pardee for the past 15 years, was one of the organizers of the protest.
She has refused to get vaccinated “because I believe that we have freedom of choice,” she said. “We should have our own medical freedom of choice to be vaccinated or nor vaccinated. That’s my personal choice and that’s a lot of these people’s personal choice.” She said she had heard that 500 of Pardee’s 1,500 employees have refused to comply with the hospital’s order that they be vaccinated by next Friday.
“Everybody’s got different reasons,” Frazier said. “Mine is I don’t want the government and Jay Kirby to tell me what I can do to my body. It has not been out long enough. I just don’t believe I should take it.”
She said the concern of vaccine resisters was compounded last week when U.S. Department of Labor announced a rule that would require employers covering 84 million workers to mandate the Covid-19 vaccine or require those who refuse to undergo regular testing and wear face masks.
“They’re making it pretty punitive for us,” Frazier said.
As for the potential that she could infect patients in her care, she said: “Vaccinated and unvaccinated both spread. Why can’t everyone be tested?”
Robert Klym, a radiologist, was recruited on Friday to be the featured speaker.
“Recently I chose to exit hospital-based practice for several reasons and I now work from home," he said, speaking to the gathering through a bullhorn. "In my capacity at the hospital I did enjoy friendly and constructive relationships with Pardee administration, particularly Jay Kirby and Johnna Reed. They have earned my respect and I bear no ill will upon those individuals or upon the hospital.”
Klym urged the protesters to remain united.
“Do not yet despair or give up hope because of the recent national mandate, carefully orchestrated to be made public after the very recent elections,” he said. “It’s obvious there is a big political component to this. The current national mandate is of course being already strongly challenged on principle, legality and, perhaps more importantly on practicality. This practicality is particularly important at this hospital where the absence of over 500 of you in the short-term would seriously hamper the ability of the hospital to provide services at its current level.”

After Klym spoke, the protesters marched from the parking lot west of Pardee along Justice Street, U.S. 64 and Fleming Street then stood in front of the hospital on U.S. 64 chanting "My Body My Choice, "Freedom Not Mandates" and "Let's Go Brandon."
In a memo he issued to hospital personnel on Friday ahead of the demonstration, Pardee UNC Health CEO Jay Kirby assured the protesting employees that the hospital would not interfere with the rally and went on to defend Pardee’s vaccine mandate.
“Expressing your opinion is well within your rights and I, and the entire administration, support that right,” he said. “ … It’s also important for us all to remember that many of the people who may show up on Saturday have also shown up throughout this pandemic and worked tirelessly to care for patients and our community. We will treat them with the dignity and respect that they deserve, and ensure that they have a safe space in which to protest.
“And while I do respect and support the rights of these individuals to protest and express their opinion, this does not change what we do at Pardee or how we approach this requirement,” Kirby said in the memo. “The data is overwhelming that a fully vaccinated workforce is in the best interest of our organization, our patients, and our community. We will continue to pursue that goal.”