Health care workers once again ask judge to halt state’s vaccine mandate

Coronavirus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Eight Rhode Island health care workers are asking a judge to temporarily block the state’s vaccine mandate.

Court documents filed Friday reveal the health care workers are refusing to get vaccinated “because of their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The health care workers argue that it’s unfair that the state has granted medical exemptions and accommodations to upwards of 400 employees, “while not allowing a single religious exemption or accommodation.”

The mandate went into effect last month, and requires all employees working at health care facilities in Rhode Island to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or risk losing their jobs.

Previous attempts to block the vaccine mandate have failed, including one filed by a group of firefighters unions who claimed the mandate was unconstitutional and another by a group of health care workers who were also frustrated by the religious exemption.

The mandate has forced the state’s health care facilities to double down on employee vaccinations. Landmark Medical Center recently placed 21 unvaccinated employees on administrative leave after the R.I. Department of Health determined the Woonsocket-based hospital wasn’t complying with the mandate.

Anne Rich, a former registered nurse at Women & Infants Hospital, has been without a job since the mandate went into effect because she’s unvaccinated.

Rich said while she had plans to retire in March, she’s worried for her former colleagues who are struggling to make ends meet.

“You know, some of them are afraid,” Rich said. “Single mothers think, if something happens to me after I get it, what am I supposed to do? Where are my children supposed to go?”

“This vaccine is not curative,” she continued. “If it were, I truly believe our stance on this would be so much different.”

A judge will consider the temporary injunction during a hearing scheduled for Nov. 19.

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