BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — California’s first vaccine mandate goes into effect Friday, Oct. 1. And yet some healthcare workers remain unvaccinated, with no exemption or plans to get the vaccine.
“If I have to get it, it’s going to be against my will,” X-ray technician Shelly Elgart said.
Elgart, a technician at Dignity Health Memorial Hospital, applied for a religious exemption, and was denied.
Professor Dorit Reiss says it’s often tricky for employers to grant religious exemptions because a sincerely-held religious belief must contain several components.
“If it’s religion, it has to be about fundamental questions of life and death, for example,” Reiss, who teaches at UC Hastings College of the Law, said. “It has to be part of a comprehensive belief system, and often but not always, religion comes with external signs and rites.”
Daniel Wolcott, president of Adventist Health Kern County, says its hospital had to equalize workers’ beliefs with workplace safety and patients’ well-being.
“We highly value the fact that people come to life with different backgrounds and beliefs,” Wolcott said. “What’s important, though, is that we balance the need to honor those individual beliefs with the safety of the work environment and the safety for our patients and our community.”
Elgart and Trang Tran, who also remains unvaccinated without an exemption, are still unsure whether they’ll get vaccinated.
“I asked my pastor’s advice, and I talked to some of my trusted friends, and we’re still in the process of thinking about that,” Tran, a CT technician at Memorial Hospital, said.
Unvaccinated healthcare workers at Dignity Health have two weeks to inform superiors of their intention to get the shot or be placed on unpaid administrative leave.
Elgart, Tran and a local activist were unaware of any plans to organize a protest like the one they attended in August.