EATON — Preble County Medical Center was home to an early morning protest as Kettering Health employees and community members spoke out against COVID-19 vaccination mandates on Wednesday, Aug. 18.
Organizers who work at Kettering Health and agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity said the crowd had a number of Kettering Health employees, including some who came out during their breaks or after a shift.
“We’re out here standing up and standing together for freedom of choice, whether to be vaccinated or not,” one organizer said. “We all feel like it is a right to choose. If you choose to be vaccinated, great. That’s your opinion. That’s your choice. It’s your body, your health, your risk. We are in the medical field, and we are choosing not to. That is our personal opinion.”
According to reports, Kettering Health has told employees they must receive the COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 1, moving back from the original date of Oct. 4.
Additionally, employees can provide a positive antibody test in lieu of receiving the vaccine, though they must be submitted every three months. Once tests become negative, employees would be mandated to receive the vaccine.
These changes was made following numerous protests at Kettering Health facilities, including one outside the organization’s administrative offices in Miamisburg last week. This protest was attended by hundreds, including State Representative Rodney Creech, who represents Ohio’s 43 District including Preble County and parts of Montgomery County.
Organizers said the protest in Eaton was against vaccine mandates, not against the vaccine itself, as numerous people in the crowd had supposedly received the vaccine.
“They’re still standing out here for their right and for their choice,” an organizer said.
In Preble County, recent health department data shows 36.2 percent of residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, up from 33.12 percent on Thursday, July 15.
Data also shows community transmission is “high” in Preble County, according to the Centers for Disease Control, with Preble County now at 163.89 cases per 100,000 residents, up from just 90.5 last week.
Organizers said that while a number of employees would be prepared to leave their jobs if Kettering Health enforces a vaccine mandate, others would not be in a position to do so.
“I feel like the ones that could make it switching jobs, yes, but there are a lot that feel – you know, single parent, that feel like they’re backed into a corner, that they really don’t have any other choice,” an organizer said. “We’ve had some that have been terrified and have went already and gotten vaccinated. We have others that are, you know, that’s their last resort, but they’re waiting. They’re going to wait it out and see how long they can push it out. But then there’s others that are on not doing it regardless.”
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles