Group protests COVID-19 vaccination policy at Sanford Health

Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 7:07 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -Protesters gathered outside the Sanford USD Medical Center Friday, voicing their opposition to COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Sanford Health announced last week that it will require all employees to get vaccinated by November 1st. But not everyone agrees with that position.

Of the protesters our reporter Miranda Paige spoke with, she did not come across any current Sanford Health employees. However, she did talk with retired employees, friends, and families who were out there in support of employees who did not feel comfortable protesting

Pouring rain didn’t stop people from making their voices heard.

“Bodily integrity, autonomy, our bodies are not for others to mandate what we do with our bodies,” said protester Amy Willis.

This group is protesting the COVID-19 vaccination policy at Sanford Health.

“No one should be mandated, forced to have this, to have employment. One of our members is an employee for Sanford and his job is threatened by this,” said Protester Pastor Harvey Opp.

Other protesters say they don’t feel comfortable or safe getting vaccinated.

Donna Driesen says she is retired from Sanford.

“I’m concerned that if they put this thing through there will be a lot of Sanford employees who will walk out and you will be losing an enormous amount of experienced people,” said Driesen.

Reed Boysen disagrees with these views, counter protesting.

“They are endangering my children’s health, they are endangering my health...And I think we should be over this, but these people who are so misinformed just keep us from returning to normal,” said Boysen.

Is it legal for companies to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine?

“The short answer is yes,” said Brendan Johnson.

He is a former U.S. Attorney for South Dakota .

“The supreme court said those mandatory vaccination policies are legal. Specifically what they acknowledged is that yes in the United States, liberty, individual liberty is a cornerstone of our country, but it does not outweigh the common good in the interest of saving thousands of lives,” said Johnson.

However, Johnson says there are two exceptions under the law. One is a sincerely held religious belief under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Or a health condition that prevents someone from being vaccinated, which is under the Americans with Disabilities act.

If you meet either of these requirements an employer would have to find a reasonable accommodation. However, Johnson says, “If that reasonable accommodation provides an undue burden on the employer then they don’t have to do so.”

Johnson recommends reaching out to a lawyer if you feel like you fall under either of those exceptions.

In response to the protest in a statement to Dakota News Now, Sanford Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mike Wilde said:

“We respect everyone’s right to voice their opinions. At Sanford Health, we have received tremendous support and appreciation from our employees this past week about the employee vaccine mandate. Many employees have come to us to say, “thank you, this is a sigh of relief.” By asking all employees to be vaccinated, we are continuing to offer a safe place for not only our employees, but our patients and guests as well. We are happy to be a leader and are excited to see other health care organizations take this same step.”

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