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UK nurse distraught over COVID-19 vaccine requirement, UK offers declination process

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Posted at 6:49 PM, Aug 09, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Multiple Kentucky healthcare providers are mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for employees, excluding religious and medical reasons.

But what about pregnant employees?

LEX18 spoke to a UK nurse who said she feels like she has to make an impossible choice.

"It just feels like you're in this situation where we have to choose between doing what you think is best for your baby or being able to provide for your baby so it's a very scary situation," she said.

She said there was a lot of confusion around who could get a medical exemption when UK announced all employees had to be vaccinated by September 15th.

"I was scared," she said. "My coworkers were scared."

She pointed to a statement on the CDC website as the reason why she's nervous to get the shot while pregnant. It says, "limited data are available on the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine in those who are pregnant".

However, it does go on to say that "early data" is "reassuring". But that isn't enough to convince the nurse.

"There are still clinical trials going on and I just don't feel safe," she said.

She is open to getting it after she has delivered her baby but not while she is pregnant.

She said she asked her doctor at the UK Women's Health Clinic for an exemption, but she was told no because it's UK policy to recommend the shot.

"I feel as though there is pressure from the top to tell us no," she said.

After the interview, LEX18 reached out to UK Healthcare to get clarity on its policy.

They sent back the following statement:

"The COVID-19 vaccine mandate for UK HealthCare employees includes a declination process for religious or medical reasons. Currently, at UK HealthCare, anyone who believes they have a valid reason for exemption can request a declination, and it will be evaluated by a team of medical experts from various specialties at UK. However, most if not all recommendations are to take the vaccine compared to the overall risk of contracting COVID-19. We also advise people who wish to decline for medical reasons – including pregnancy – to speak to their primary care providers about their personal recommendations on whether or not to get the COVID-19 vaccine. UK HealthCare employees who do not receive the vaccine will be required to undergo routine COVID-19 testing and/or may be reassigned to another area of the medical center, depending on where they currently work."

LEX18 showed the statement to the nurse who said she's happy there is a declination process but she feels like UK is dodging the issue by not being specific about pregnant women. She is also worried if her request is not approved, she will be moved away from a unit she loves to work in, or to a unit where she will be paid less.

She said she hopes UK reconsiders and allows pregnant women to wait until after they deliver to get the shot-- something she is open to doing.

For those who would like to move forward with UK's declination process, a spokeswoman said UK Healthcare employees will be getting a link later this week with information on how to go into the electronic health records system (MyChart) and start the declination process.

What the Experts Say -- subheadline?

According to the CDC, there are a few things pregnant women should consider when making a decision about whether to get the shot:

  • your risk of exposure to COVID-19
  • the risks of severe illness
  • the known benefits of vaccination
  • the limited but growing evidence about the safety of vaccinations during pregnancy

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-fetal Medicine, the two leading organizations representing specialists in care, recommend pregnant women get the shot.

In making the recommendation, both national organizations emphasize concerns about significant increases in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant and the regional low rates of vaccination.

Recent data shows more than 95-percent of people who are hospitalized and/ or dying from COVID-19 are those who have remained unvaccinated.

Officials say women who decide to wait until after delivery to be vaccinated may be exposing themselves to an increased risk of severe illness or death.