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INDIANAPOLIS – Workers for IU Health gathered with supporters Saturday to protest the health provider’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The demonstrators attended the Saturday afternoon event behind IU Fairbanks Hall. Estimates varied on the crowd size, but those in attendance said they numbered in the hundreds.

IU Health is requiring all employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 1. Those who fail to do so face termination.

There are some exemptions to the policy for medical and religious reasons, according to IU Health.

Traci Staley organized Saturday’s event. She believes getting vaccinated is a personal choice that shouldn’t be forced on employees by their company.

“They’re telling us, ‘Well, you do have a choice,’ but what kind of a choice is it? We’re being threatened and backed into a corner and told take this vaccine that you don’t believe in, or agree with, that you don’t feel is safe or lose your livelihood,” Staley told us prior to the event.

Those in attendance Saturday agreed with Staley’ view, with many holding signs noting that the vaccine is currently approved for emergency use only. Other signs featured statements such as “coercion is not consent” and decried the policy as “medical apartheid.”

“I’m mainly here today because I’m standing up for health freedom,” said Kara Landis, a speech-language pathologist with Allied Health. “So everybody who has been getting the shots have been getting it for their personal choice and I think that’s amazing. I mean, I may be getting the shot someday. I don’t know, but I want that choice and there are health care workers in central Indiana not just at at IU Health, everywhere that are being basically forced to take a vaccine that is not FDA approved in order to keep their job.”

IU Health maintains that “vaccinating team members is a safe and effective way to protect patients and help reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

The company also noted that it already requires employees to get the flu vaccine.