‘I decided I needed to leave’: Pregnant Eskenazi Health nurse suspended after refusing COVID vaccine

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INDIANAPOLS, Ind.– A former Eskenazi Health employee says she was terminated for choosing not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Adara Allen says she was a nurse at Eskenazi Health working in the COVID intensive care unit until earlier this week.

Months after learning she was pregnant, Eskenazi Health announced a mandate requiring all employees get the COVID-19 vaccine or risk being terminated. 

“Doctors were recommending and are recommending pregnant people get vaccinated, but I feel like a recommendation is not without risk,” Allen said.

After experiencing a miscarriage in December, Allen says she chose not to get vaccinated, worried about how it would affect her unborn child. 

“I filed a medical exemption with Eskenazi and it was denied,” Allen said.

Allen tells us the hospital denied her medical exemption over the phone and not in an email after the most recent cyber security breach. 

The hospital system did confirm their email system was down but did not comment on the communication between employees. 

“I asked if I could do weekly testing or if I could discuss this after my pregnancy,” Allen said. “They said no.”

Allen claims she was told verbally on Monday she was not allowed to return to work without proof of vaccination.   

“You have a mandate set in place but no paperwork to give us to say ‘Are we suspended?’” Allen said. “‘Are we terminated?’ There was no communication except you can’t show up or you’ll be removed.”

We requested an interview with Eskenazi Health but was sent the following statement instead:

“In July, Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County announced the decision to require COVID-19 vaccines for all employees, including those who work for the Marion County Public Health Department, Eskenazi Health, Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services (IEMS), and the division of Long Term Care. Ensuring that all staff and providers get their vaccine is a critical step toward protecting the safety of our workforce, our patients and our community.  As of September 21, HHC employees who have chosen not to be vaccinated have been suspended pending a final review. When we have the final number of employees who have chosen to remain unvaccinated and have left the organization, we will share that information. We continue to urge everyone in our community to be vaccinated against COVID-19.”

We asked how many employees have been suspended or terminated for choosing not to receive the vaccine, but they did not answer our questions.

“Always talk to your doctor but recommendations are to be vaccinated,” said Thomas Duszynski, Professor of Epidemiology at Fairbanks School of Public Health.

He says there are no known risks for pregnant women associated with the vaccine. 

“The child may receive antibodies and hold them for a while but eventually they will want to be vaccinated as well,” Duszynski said. “We do this for measles, mumps, rubella as well.”

Still, Allen says she wants to see years of research on the vaccine before deciding to get vaccinated.    

“I am not against it, but I don’t think it’s a one-size-all medication and there are exemptions for people who are at risk for getting it,” Allen said.

We will continue to demand answers and bring you more updates as we learn more about this developing story.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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