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Protesters gather for ‘Medical Freedom’ rally outside Sanford

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 5:56 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Vaccine mandates continue to be a divisive topic across the country, including here at home.

Protesters gathered in Sioux Falls Tuesday to push back on vaccine requirements for both Sanford Health and Avera Health employees.

Those behind the rally say it’s a matter of medical freedom. It comes as COVID-19 cases in South Dakota continue to rise, along with hospitalizations.

Protesters Dakota News Now spoke with say the issue doesn’t necessarily lie with the vaccine itself, but the freedom to control what is put into your body.

“I think that people should have the right to make their own medical decisions between them and their doctor,” Sandy Peckenpaugh, who attended the rally, said.

Mya Olson, the founder and President of Health Freedom South Dakota, made her stance known at the rally.

“Bodily autonomy is a God-given right, and we shouldn’t have to be coerced or mandated into any biologic or therapeutic, our health is our responsibility,” Olson said.

That sentiment was echoed by many of the marchers, including Sonya Van Erdewyk, who traveled from Mitchell to attend the event.

“Our country is founded on health freedom, right? Our freedom to choose, we go to a doctor, we listen to their recommendations, and we have a choice to decide what we want to do with our bodies,” Van Erdewyk said. “When we have someone that is now telling us what to do with our bodies, that is wrong.”

According to Sanford Health, vaccination remains the best way to beat the pandemic.

Consequently, all of Sanford’s employees will be required to get the shot by November. Sanford said in a statement to Dakota News Now, in part:

“While we respect everyone’s right to voice their opinions, nothing is more important to our purpose as caregivers than ensuring a safe environment for our employees and those who seek our care.”

That statement goes on to say:

“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.”

The rally lasted about two hours as folks walked around the Sanford Health campus with their signs, showing support for the right to choose whether you’re vaccinated or not.

Sanford Heath’s full statement:

“While we respect everyone’s right to voice their opinions, nothing is more important to our purpose as caregivers than ensuring a safe environment for our employees and those who seek our care. At Sanford Health, we have received tremendous support and appreciation from our employees about the employee vaccine mandate. 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 organizations take this same important step forward to ensure the safest environment possible.” – Dr. Mike Wilde, Vice President, medical officer at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls

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