Nurse Calls Mississippi Hospital's COVID Vaccine Mandate 'Slap in the Face,' Others Protest

A Mississippi nurse called Baptist Memorial Healthcare's COVID-19 vaccine mandate a "slap in the face" as others protest the against rule that requires vaccination of hospital staff by November 1, the Oxford Eagle reported.

A demonstration of over 100 against the mandate ensued Wednesday outside the hospital, made up of hospital workers, family members and children. Nurse Informaticist Lacy Cunningham said she supports vaccination but can't get vaccinated herself like some of her family members due to health reasons.

"We need a little bit more respect, especially with what these nurses and health care workers have been through over the past year," said Cunningham. "It's a big slap in the face. You trust me to take care of you and make medical decisions and actions that take care of you, but you don't trust me to make medical actions and decisions to take care of myself."

A statement from the hospital noted the opposition to the vaccine mandate and said there will be a process for those who cannot get vaccinated over health concerns and other reasons.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Medical Workers in Mississippi
Lacy Cunningham said that she supports vaccination but she can't get vaccinated herself due to health reasons. Her hospital has said there will be a process for those who cannot get vaccinated over health concerns and other reasons. Above, Medical workers with Delta Health Center prepare to vaccinate people at a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic on April 29, in Leland, Mississippi. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Mississippi has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the U.S. and has experienced a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases the past several weeks.

Baptist Memorial Healthcare is also requiring employees at Baptist Memorial Hospital North Mississippi—be vaccinated against COVID-19 by November 1, the Oxford Eagle reported.

The newspaper reported that during the demonstration against the mandate, when cars passed, protesters chanted, "Hear our voice. Mandate Choice."

The hospital issued a statement in response to the protest, saying the vaccine mandate in the best interest of employees and the community.

Cunningham has worked at the hospital about 12 years and believes people should make their own medical decisions.

Cunningham said the mandate is insulting to many Baptist Memorial employees, and she wants the hospital to repeal it.

The hospital's statement said the process for employees that oppose vaccination will be similar to the process it follows for its flu vaccine requirement.

"While they have the right to voice their opinions, we have a responsibility to provide the safest environment for our staff members and patients, many of whom are vulnerable and immunocompromised," the hospital statement said. "Given we are in the midst of the greatest health care crisis of our generation, we made the decision that we believed to be in the best interest of our entire team, patients and community at large."

The University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson is also requiring all of its employees to get vaccinated against the virus by November 1.

Mississippi has nearly 3 million residents. The state Heath Department said Mississippi has had more than 443,500 cases of COVID-19 and more than 8,500 deaths from it since the pandemic began in the spring of 2020. The state reported 3,850 new cases Thursday.

About 52 percent of U.S. residents and 39 percent of Mississippi residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the state Health Department said.

The department also said that between August 5 and Wednesday in Mississippi, 99 percent of the new COVID-19 cases, 86 percent of the COVID-19 hospitalizations and 87 percent of the COVID-19 deaths in the state during those dates were in unvaccinated people.