December 2, 2021
On Saturday, November 27, Protests against vaccine mandates took place at four cities in East Idaho. Protests, which consisted of residents holding signs against mandates at busy intersections took place in Rexburg, Idaho Falls, Blackfoot, and Pocatello.
The protests were organized by East Idahoans Against Vaccine Mandates, with some protesters attending all four protests.
Maegan Rose Dyer, a nurse and founder of the organizing group, talked with the Pocatello-Chubbuck Observer about why they are protesting.
What is your group?
Our group is East Idahoans Against Vaccine Mandates. Our main focus is Against Mandates. We are against the government mandating this vaccine and coercing folks to get it or lose their jobs. We are not an antivaxx group, although you will find members in our group who are skeptical of this vaccine’s safety and efficacy. I have personally recommended the vaccine to the at-risk populations, but the point here is we feel everyone should have a choice, the opportunity to weigh the risks and benefits for themselves. I feel the science supports that people can do this, even healthcare workers in a reasonably safe way that doesn’t put others at risk and doesn’t put patients at risk. Many of us are healthcare workers and care deeply for our patients and if we felt we were putting them in danger by doing this, we would not be doing it. The fact is the science is still evolving on this very new virus. More and more we are seeing that unvaccinated are not more or significantly more of a danger to the community than the vaccinated. As things are still evolving, that’s just one more reason not to mandate.
How did you get started?
Many of us at local healthcare facilities received an email around November 10th telling us we needed to have our first COVID vaccine by Dec 5th or be on unpaid suspension. If you do the math, that’s less than a month to comply or lose your income. I figured I wasn’t the only one upset about this so I started a support group that snowballed to include many healthcare workers and other community members from INL and other businesses that have lost or will be losing their jobs. We also ended up coordinating with other local groups that already existed like Stand Up for Idaho and Stand Up for Kids East Idaho. It evolved into this 4-town protest with about 350+ participants and we will continue our efforts via protests, education to the community, an event at the Boise Capitol, and contacting our government representatives, etc. The goal of this group is to give support to those losing their jobs, give them an outlet for change, and to get the attention of our Congress folk in Idaho to stand up for us.
Why is it important?
Whether you are pro vaccine or pro mandate or anti vaccine or mandate there’s a bigger picture here. I don’t think people realize how many people will resist this and be fired. Hundreds in just our little area at the very least. We already have a healthcare worker shortage. When St Luke’s and other hospitals in Boise did this earlier on, they had to reverse it because of severe staffing shortages. I’ve heard the argument that you wouldn’t want an unvaccinated nurse caring for your loved one but consider a nurse caring for so many more patients than is safe that she misses critical information that results in severe consequences or even death. Consider not having enough nursing staff to allow for surgeries to happen. This is much more dangerous than a nurse who is unvaccinated, asymptomatic, with a mask on that may or may not have COVID. To me, there is no comparison. Many of your nurses don’t have flu shots and wear masks during that season and it has never been questioned. Consider why the rules have changed and if you’re being guided by fear and uncertainty or scientifically and rationally. That’s from a scientific perspective. From an emotional humanity perspective consider your neighbors, loved ones, coworkers (who you’ve saved lives with and held dying patients’ hands side by side sometimes for decades) losing their livelihood and calling in life, over this one decision. Some of these people are award winning nurses/workers who have been practicing for decades.
From a business perspective, these mandates are not good for you. The government has put out 3 mandates: OSHA, which is stayed by the district courts at the moment, CMS, which essentially leverages Medicaid/Medicare patients to blackmail hospitals and clinics into participating, and the Federal Contractors mandate. Many of these businesses are not complicit. They said so in their emails, they’re being forced to do this. This isn’t a “right to work” issue, it’s a government overreach issue.
From a community/patient standpoint these mandates are not good for you. Other than losing tons of healthcare workers, cops, firefighters, truck drivers that keep our supply chain going, teachers, etc etc. which will have massive consequences consider this: The Federal government is banking on the hospitals/clinics and businesses complying with these mandates in fear, but what if they didn’t. If you or anyone you love has Medicaid or Medicare, consider if you couldn’t go to a certain hospital or clinic for care anymore. The government is using you and your loved ones and your health as a pawn to get compliance on this. If all the hospitals would just say no, maybe this would be over, but to do that they’d have to turn their backs on 50% of their patients. That is the position the government is putting them in. This isn’t the hospitals’ fault really. They’re in a tough spot. This is the government’s overreach.
Lastly, I’ll say I think we can all come together on this. Many of us are grateful for the vaccines, but they’re not a one size fits all solution. You can be pro vaccine and pro mandate. In America we do our best to allow freedoms of choice when it is reasonable and safe to do so. I think many are under the illusion portrayed by the media that the unvaccinated are unsafe to others and that a vaccine would protect others from them. That is simply not true, and it is a key point here. Are the unvaccinated a danger to our community and coworkers? No. The science supports this. Vaccines help the individual to prevent severe disease or death, so they’re definitely worth considering for yourself, but, if you’re hoping they’ll keep grandma from getting it, unfortunately that’s just not the case. Have grandma wear an N95 when visitors are around, if she wants to and have her be vaccinated. That’s your best bet for protection and don’t let people with flu-like symptoms around her or consider masking around her, either way, it should be her choice and yours as a family, not the government’s.
How can people learn more?
You can also be supportive by considering your friends and families’ perspectives who disagree with you and having open and loving conversations. We have to be able to talk about these things in a measured way without extremes and shame and blame. Don’t forget who your family and friends are at their core. We all want what is right and best on all sides of this. Don’t lose sight of that.