AMSTERDAM — About 40 people attended a rally in front of the Mohawk Valley Medical Arts Building at St. Mary’s Healthcare on Sunday to protest the state’s mandate that all hospital personnel and nursing homes employees receive their first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 27 or face the possibility of losing their jobs.
Some of the people at the “Stop the Mandates” rally held signs with slogans like “Freedom over Fear,” “No Medical Tyranny” and “My life my choice.”
Jessica Blake, of Amsterdam, and Carly Vannostrand, of Gloversville, said they organized the rally and circulated a petition for signatures of people looking for Gov. Kathy Hochul to end the requirement.
Vannostrand said she’s worked as a certified nursing assistant at various healthcare facilities, including St. Mary’s, at different times over the past 14 years. She said she stopped working as a CNA six months ago because of the COVID-19 requirements.
“They’re making nurses completely ‘gown-up,’ we’re wearing face masks and shields and gowns, and we’ve all been exposed to it,” she said. “Now, we’re being told we have to take the vaccine. How do you go from hero to zero in six months?”
The vaccination requirement for healthcare workers in the state was first ordered by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Aug. 18, and later implemented by emergency regulations filed with the New York secretary of state on Aug. 26. The regulations include nearly all healthcare related locations including: all hospitals, nursing homes, diagnostic and treatments centers, dental clinics, dispensaries, midwifery birth centers, rehabilitation clinics, home health agencies, adult care facilities and in-patient hospices.
The emergency regulations differ from the original mandate from Cuomo in that there is no religious exemption allowed. The state Department of Health will have the power to ask for vaccination records for employees from any of the healthcare facilities they regulate and there is the potential for fines if the entities do not comply. The vaccine mandate is also not subject to collective bargaining.
These are the deadlines set by state:
- Sept. 27 — All hospital personnel and nursing homes employees must receive their first dose. This includes state-employed healthcare employees, who do not have the option to receive weekly testing, an option offered to other state employees.
- Oct. 7 — All personnel in other healthcare facilities must receive their first dose.
Cody Anderson, chair of the Libertarian Party of New York, spoke at the rally. He said healthcare workers should not be forced to choose between taking a vaccine or losing their jobs.
“What we stand for is bodily autonomy, we do not argue for or against a vaccine,” he said. “Many of you feel one way or another about masks and vaccines, we are not hear to send that message. We are hear to support healthcare workers who are being subjected to a state mandate for a vaccine that they may or may not want for a number of reasons.”
Christopher Kinowski, of Perth, said he believes the vaccines are “poison” and they don’t provide 100 percent protection against breakthrough infections. He said he believes people who claim that “COVID-19 and other viruses to come are a master plan from the deep state.” Kinowski made it clear the rally was political in nature.
“I believe that we have very exciting news to celebrate today, first that Andrew Cuomo the genocidal maniac is no longer governor,” he said, receiving cheers from nearly the entire rally.
“We got worse now, she’s a female, she’ll do more harm!” shouted one woman in the crowd.
“Yep,” Kinowski said. “The second most exciting news of the day is: Vaccines don’t work. Game over!”
Kinowski said his wife works as an administrator at a hospital, but he wouldn’t say where. He said she will refuse to take a vaccine and quit rather than being forced to do so. He said many healthcare workers will refuse the mandate, creating skilled healthcare labor shortages.
Several people at the rally repeated the phrase “Game Over” with respect to data showing some vaccinated people have still become infected with COVID-19, although their symptoms tend to be much less severe.
None of the people at the rally who gave speeches or interviews for this story said they worked for St. Mary’s Healthcare, but some said they work for other hospitals like Chuck Zbytniewski, who wore nurses scrubs and a U.S. Marine Corps hat. Zbytniewski said he’s worked as a licensed practical nurse for 27 years, but he’ll allow himself to be fired before taking any COVID-19 vaccine shot.
“We’ve seen some of the short term effects. We’ve seen myocarditis in patients,” he said. “They keep throwing this argument ‘well, we’ve vaccinated millions of people,’ that’s fine, but what guarantee do you have that I’m not going to get myocarditis? Or that I’m not going to die, and leave my children. You know, it’s my life. I get only one. Nobody is going to make the decision for me, and nobody should make the decision for you.”
The extremely rare side effect Zbytniewsk mentioned was the subject of a review of clinical records published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Aug. 4. The review of data from 40 hospitals in the Washington, Oregon, Montana and Los Angeles County, California showed that among 2 million individuals receiving at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccination 20 people developed “vaccine-related myocarditis,” which is inflammation of the middle layer of the heart wall.
According to the JAMA review: 15 of 20 vaccine-related myocarditis cases were male with a median age of 36, four of them developed symptoms after the first shot, 16 developed symptoms after the second shot, 19 of them were admitted to the hospital, but all were discharged after about two days.
“There were no readmissions or deaths,” reads the JAMA article. “Two patients received a second vaccination after onset of myocarditis; neither had worsening of symptoms. At last available follow-up, 13 patients had symptom resolution and seven were improving.”
Zbytniewsk said he’s skeptical of the accuracy of reporting of side effects from COVID-19 vaccines, and he thinks they’re likely higher and worse than reported. He also thinks the death count from COVID-19 is exaggerated. He said he volunteered to work among COVID-19 patients at St. Luke’s but he doesn’t believe he ever contracted the virus. He said his biggest concern with the COVID-19 vaccines is no one knows the long term of effects of taking them.