Trauma nurse Dan Alexander said he is a 40-year industry professional who believes the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers is like opening “Pandora’s box.”
“If we follow this vaccine mandate, what will the state want from us next?” said Alexander, 58, who retired from Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton and now works for another medical facility. “Getting the vaccine should be an individual choice and not forced on anyone.”
On Wednesday, Alexander joined nearly 150 healthcare workers and their supporters from across the High Desert and Southern California in protest of the vaccine mandate outside Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley.
The mid-day protest included demonstrators waving American flags and signs that read, “My Body, My Choice”; “Medical Freedom Matters”; “Coercion is not Consent”; and “Test me, Mask me, but don’t Force Vax-me.”
Dozens of demonstrators told the Daily Press they were speaking out against the California Department of Public Health’s Aug. 5 announcement that requires all healthcare and long-term care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 30.
The mandate also calls for visitors to hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and intermediate-care sites to provide proof they received the vaccine or have tested negative for COVID-19 in the past three days.
“When I first heard about the mandate, my first thought was the state is taking away our rights,” said nurse Ashley Monson, 36, who works at Community Hospital of San Bernardino. “As health care workers, we should be able to choose whether to be vaccinated or not.”
Monson, who said she has not been vaccinated against COVID-19, said she felt there may be too many adverse effects on the vaccinated after she researched the vaccines.
“I’m choosing not to get vaccinated and will take my chances with getting COVID,” Monson said. “I’d rather have the natural immunity than receiving the vaccine that’s not even FDA approved.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines for emergency use. The agency could fully approve Pfizer’s vaccine as early as September, the New York Times reported last week.
Several nurses said despite protesting the vaccine mandate and fighting for freedom, they’re afraid they’ll be out of a job in October.
“When I first heard about the mandate, I was stressed out and suffered a lot of sleepless nights and stomach problems,” Alexander said. “I love taking care of patients and the people in the community — that’s my passion — but so are my freedoms.”
Retired nurse Wendy Vanderhoeft, of Hesperia, said that everyone — including healthcare workers — should “not be forced or intimidated” to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Everyone should have freedom of choice when it comes to taking the vaccine,” said Vanderhoeft, 62, who worked for a private medical clinic in Riverside.
Providence St. Mary spokesperson Bryan Kawasaki told the Daily Press that medical center officials were aware of the community demonstration outside the hospital as part of a larger effort to protest the recent CDPH order.
“Providence St. Mary Medical Center is doing everything we can to support staff and visitors through this transition and will comply with the state mandate,” Kawasaki said in a statement. “ We recognize that CDPH’s mandate may evoke a strong emotional response from some, but we also know that the vaccine is a safe and effective way to stop the spread of this deadly virus.”
Providence, St. Mary learned about the state-issued mandate on Aug. 5 and are working through the process of implementation, Kawasaki said, adding that the medical center will have more information for its caregivers as soon as possible.
The High Desert Healthcare for Freedom Facebook page has announced two public vaccine mandate protests this weekend, including a march from 8 to 10 a.m. on Saturday that begins on the corner of Amargosa and Bear Valley Road in Victorville.
The second protest is scheduled at 9 a.m. Saturday in front of Desert Valley Hospital in Victorville.
Desert Valley Hospital and Desert Valley Medical Group CEO Fred Hunter said the hospital is complying with all requirements per the CDPH.
“All staff are required to wear a mask at all times,” Hunter told the Daily Press. “We will follow the public health order as it is communicated to us regarding the vaccination mandate; employees exempt due to medical or sincerely held religious beliefs will be tested twice weekly.”
Daily Press reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227 or RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz.

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