Protestors speak out against Mayo Clinic vaccine mandate

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(ABC 6 News) – At least 100 people protested in Peace Plaza near Mayo Clinic to speak out against the health system’s vaccine mandate. Some of them were health care workers, and some of them were not. Everyone was in favor of what the group called medical freedom.

"If somebody wants to get vaccinated, by all means get vaccinated. We stand behind you too, we just stand behind the fact that it is freedom of choice," organizer and Mayo Clinic employee Kalley Newkirk said.

Many protestors were cheering and shouting about a person’s right to choose whether or not to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Some employees will lose their jobs if they refuse the shot and refuse to submit a vaccination plan or exemption.

"It is a large crowd of people that are going to be losing their jobs. That’s going to affect not just us but our patients," Newkirk said.

She may be one of them. Newkirk was put on paid administrative leave for speaking out against the vaccine on a controversial talk show, The Stew Peters Show, last week. Mayo Clinic released a statement in response to the protest.

"The requirement will help ensure that Mayo Clinic is a safe place to receive care…Staff may participate in social media and advocacy on their own behalf as long as they comply with applicable Mayo Clinic policies," the health giant said in the statement.

Patients at Mayo Clinic reacted to the demonstration.

"I know everybody wants to be free to do whatever, but you can’t be free and infect other people. They’re not only hurting themselves, they’re also hurting others," patient Latifa Alfouty said of the protestors.

Alfouty comes from Qatar and she said in her country vaccine and mask mandates are not this controversial.

"We have to respect the health experts and listen to them," she said.

The Minnesota Department of Health reports that over 8,000 Minnesotans have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Mayo Clinic has a review process in place for those who apply for medical or religious exemptions from the vaccine, and its vaccination rate currently sits at about 88%.