If you haven’t read my “The Line Has Been Drawn” post – go ahead. I’ll wait
To recap: I work in healthcare. It wasn’t my first choice, hell, it was NEVER a conscience choice at all, it was just something I fell into. I won’t rehash my history in healthcare in this post, you can read about my (mis)adventures here, but suffice it to say, I never had aspirations to work in healthcare. I needed a job and at the time, ObamaCare happened and in an effort to protect my family and make sure we all had health insurance, (because my husband is self-employed and health insurance for a family of four was CRAZY expensive), I figured the safest place to work at that time was healthcare.
I started as a scheduler and I loved it! I scheduled for three neurosurgeons, we have nine in our group, and whenever someone saw one of the doctors that I “took care of” needed to check out, they sat at my desk and I scheduled them for whatever the doctor wanted.
Then, about two years into it, the director of neurosciences decided that we needed to combine some jobs and duties and suddenly I was told, “we need you to be an MA or I’m afraid you’ll have to find another job.”
Surprise! I became an MA. I have never had formal training, I haven’t gone to school for this, I learned everything I know now on the job. I did end up passing my certification exam in 2016 and now I’m a certified medical assistant, or CMA for short.
The journey has NOT been easy. It’s like being plopped down into a foreign country and then expected to speak the foreign language and interact with the locals like you’ve been doing it your whole life.
A lot of tears were shed but I not only did it, I EXCELLED. I’m quite proud of myself, to be honest.
Around the time that the scheduler job morphed into a medical assistant job, the hospital starting making the annual flu vaccine mandatory; it had been a choice up to that point. Kevin and I talked and I AGONIZED over what to do as I did NOT want to take the vaccine. It’s not that I’m against vaccines, per se, I’m just against a vaccine that may, or may not, be what is needed for that season’s flu strain. It’s a crap shoot, let’s be honest. Yes, “experts” can make educated guesses but most of the time, they are wrong – so very wrong – and the current flu vaccine is not only not effective, it’s really not necessary.
At least, for healthy people such as myself. I do not have any co-morbidities and I do not take any prescription drugs. I pride myself on seeking the most natural remedies possible for whatever that ails me and if that doesn’t work, then I make different lifestyle choices.
It never made any sense to me to willingly subject myself to be injected with God knows what.
But my choices were limited: get the vaccine or lose my job.
Those are some pretty crappy choices.
But I had a family to protect. The thought of not having any health insurance terrified me. What if something happened? We could potentially be bankrupt because healthcare costs are insanely high.
So, I took one for the team – the team being my family. I got the vaccine. I hated it and I was angry about it, but I did it to protect my family. But I refused to allow anyone in my family to get it, even though the hospital highly encouraged it.
Stupid me. I had no idea filing an exemption at that time was even an option. I didn’t really learn about filing an exemption request for a few years and by then I thought, why would they grant me an exemption now when I’ve allowed myself to be jabbed for the past several years?
I wasn’t happy about it, I didn’t really believe in it, but I did it because I wanted to keep my job and and I felt like I didn’t have much of a choice.
Fast forward ten years later to COVID.
I was hesitant from the get-go about the COVID shot. I never truly, seriously entertained the thought of taking an experimental jab and the more I looked into the vaccine and noted all of the inconsistencies, the bribe attempts then the coercion I knew there was no way in HELL I was going to allow them to inject me; I resigned myself to losing my job because my health was WAY, WAY more important than some job.
And I loved my job – I truly liked the people I worked with. I felt confident in my abilities and I knew I was very good at what I did. I would be sad but I knew there was no way I was going to agree to this madness.
But I was encouraged to file a religious exemption. And was denied. And then, a co-worker, who felt the same way as me and was in the same boat as myself, filed an appeal and she was approved.
So, I did the same and to my UTTER surprise, my appeal was granted. I did not have to get the COVID injection but I had to agree to take a COVID test weekly. (Which was recently canceled – I don’t have to test weekly anymore! Woohoo!)
I got to keep my job but I was made to feel like a low-class citizen and often singled out because I was one of the “unvaccinated” people.
It sucked. But I got to keep my job so I endured it.
I was so relieved that the hospital approved my religious exemption for the COVID vaccine that I went ahead and got the annual flu vaccine. I didn’t want to but I was afraid to rock the boat so I stuck my arm out and got the damn thing.
And then two weeks later, I experienced Vertigo that lasted about four days. It was hell. It was so bad that I went to the ER. You can read about that here. Though the ER doctor said nothing about this being a possible side effect from the flu vaccine, Kevin and I were convinced that it most definitely had something to do with it.
And that was the point where I knew I would never take another flu vaccine again. I should have fought it from the very beginning and just got another job, but I didn’t and now I felt stuck. I’ve been living with a black cloud over my head for the past year dreading October when it would be time to get the annual flu vaccine again.
I even went so far as to take an online class and earned my Legal Secretary Certificate as a plan B in case I wasn’t successful in my exemption request. If I lost my healthcare job, fine, I would find a job in legal – I’ve always wanted to be a paralegal anyway.
I polished up my resume. I bought a nice blazer at Goodwill to wear for my interview outfit. I was ready for whatever happened.
I submitted my religious exemption request on September 9, 2022. The deadline to submit the request was the end of September and the deadline to get the flu vaccine was October 31st. I wanted to get this process over with. Give me an answer. I’ve been waiting and dreading this for 12 months – I didn’t even care that much anymore, I just wanted an answer so that I could move on with my life.
Weeks went by – no answer. I emailed human resources at the end of September to make sure they had received my exemption requests, (I actually submitted both a religious and medical exemption request because, why not?), I wanted to make sure they had received my exemption requests before the deadline to submit them. I knew they had to have them, I hand-delivered them to Employee Health but I wanted to cover all my bases.
September ended and October started. Still no word.
Mid-October arrived – still no word.
Okay now I’m getting pissed. Stop dragging it out, first of all, and secondly, it’s rude. If you’re going to deny it, I’d like some time to submit an appeal. Not to mention the people I work deserve an answer, too. We can’t expand the department until we know if I’m staying or leaving. Everyone was waiting with bated breath.
My manager kept asking me if I heard anything and he finally contacted HR to ask about it. “It’s still out for review,” he was told.
Finally, HR called me on my work phone. They wanted to let me know that my medical exemption had been denied but that my religious request was still pending.
I wasn’t surprised. I wasn’t expecting them to seriously consider the medical exemption as there was no proof that the flu vaccine from last year prompted my Vertigo but again, I thought I would give it a try.
Another few weeks go by .. nothing. The deadline to submit my resignation comes and goes – still no word. Since the deadline to get the vaccine is October 31st, the deadline to turn in your two weeks was October 17th. I talked to my manager and he advised me to hold off on submitting my resignation as he talked to them and he was “confident” they would approve it.
(Which tells me that he, and E. the provider I work full-time for now, appealed my case to the hospital. Which is very humbling that they went to bat for me).
So. I didn’t turn my notice in and my manager assured me that if they denied my request they couldn’t penalize me for not turning in my resignation late because it wasn’t my fault they hadn’t notified me in time.
I was beyond caring at this point. Just make a decision already! OH. MY. LORD.
The last week of October starts and still no word.
Finally. FINALLY, October 27th rolls around and I finally get an email from HR. It’s not a denial but they want to know why, now, when I’ve gotten the flu vaccine in years past, I refused to get it this year. What had changed? And the deadline to respond to this request for more information was October 28th – THE NEXT DAY.
Because of course.
But it was a fair question. And one I was prepared for.
Luckily, we didn’t have clinic that day so I was free to really focus and concentrate on my response. Kevin offered his two cents and after a few hours of drafting, this is what I came up with:
My visit to the ER shortly after being injected with the flu vaccine in October 2021 forced me to take a long, hard look at my mortality, beliefs and convictions. Though there is no way to prove this incident was directly caused by the vaccine, it prompted me to seek religious counsel and prayer to seek guidance. I have evolved and spiritually matured over the past year resulting in a stronger religious conviction regarding my body’s natural immunity and I do not wish to interfere with this gift from God. My relationship with God has strengthened over this past year motivating me to make substantial changes in my day-to-day life and practices. As the physical world changes and our bodies age we make adjustments to accommodate those changes. The same can be said and applied to spiritual and religious beliefs.
I do not prescribe to any medications and I consistently seek natural remedies for any ailments. God created our bodies and I trust in His creation and design and trust my body to heal and protect on its own.
It is my sincerely held religious belief that the Holy Scriptures exhort us to make wise decisions and by making wise decisions it will keep us healthy and add years to our life.
Proverbs 3:1-2, 8 My son, do not forget my instruction and let your heart guard my commandments, for they will add to you length of days, years of life, and peace … this will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.
Proverbs 4:5-10 Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not abandon her and she will watch over you, love her and she will guard you. Wisdom is the principal thing, so get wisdom; and with all your purchases, purchase understanding. Exalt her and she will lift you up; she will honor you because you embrace her. She will place on your head a wreath of grace; she will present to you a beautiful crown. Listen, my son, and receive my words, and the years of your life will be many.
My deeply held religious belief is that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Before we show love to others, we must love ourselves. Loving ourselves includes taking care of our health and not taking unnecessary risks with our health.
Mark 12:31 Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.
I cannot, in good conscience, and in accord with my sincerely held religious faith, take any influenza vaccine. In addition, any coerced medical treatment goes against my religious faith and the right of conscience to control one’s own medical treatment, free of coercion or force. Please provide a reasonable accommodation to my belief as I wish to continue to be a good employee and a valuable member of the team.
Thank you for your consideration.
I received an email response shortly after submitting this and was told I would hear back from them by the end of the business day. That was at 3:30 PM.
This was it, the moment of truth. All of my worry and fretting this past year led to this moment – it was time to sink or swim. I would either have a job on November 1st or I would be submitting my resume on November 1st. Which would it be? Which road would I travel?
I stayed until 5:00 PM.
I went home with mixed feelings: apprehension, nervousness, agitation and annoyance at yet another delay.
I. JUST. WANT. AN .ANSWER.
I have to walk by Human Resources on my way out of the hospital to get to the parking garage. When I passed the office the lights were out and the office was locked. I gave up hope getting an answer that night.
Once again, I felt like I was being jacked around.
I get home, get changed, pull up my work email on my home computer and text my co-worker who wanted to know if I heard anything.
I fixed myself an egg sandwich and as I’m sitting back down at my desk, I noticed I have an email.
Here we go, the moment of truth. The moment I would find out if I would continue my career with healthcare of if I would be forced to start over in another industry.
I closed my eyes, said a quick prayer, and opened the email.
I quickly scanned the email … and the word granted caught my eye.
My breath caught and I forced myself to slow down and read it from the beginning.
We are writing today in response to your request for exemption from _______ universal influenza employee vaccination program.
Your request for exemption has been granted. Please note _______ may require individuals to reapply for exemption based on changes to the influenza vaccination policy.
Now that your exemption request has been approved, we will provide an accommodation in light of this exemption. Accommodations are determined on an individual basis and depend on several factors including the essential functions of a job, interaction with high-risk patient populations, and ability to work under varying levels of supervision.
In all accommodations, employees will be required to mask when on _______ property. Additional accommodations may include a change in work settings; possible work restrictions; and being moved to an alternative role if working with high-risk patients.
_______reserves the right to take any necessary and appropriate steps, including but not limited to, imposing alternative influenza prevention measures and accommodations, to ensure that individuals do not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others in the workplace.
And there you have it. All of the worry, doubts, fear, and uncertainties of this past year resolved in one small email response.
I have mixed feelings. For one, I’m honestly surprised they granted my request. I know they have denied others in the same boat as myself. Perhaps they knew I wasn’t bluffing since I have submitted my resignation in the past. Obviously, I’m relieved. This is the EASIEST way out – I don’t have to apply, interview, learn something different and deal with new people, but on the other hand, I’m sick of walking on eggshells with this job. I’m tired of agencies trying to decide what’s best for ME and MY body. I’m tired of jumping through hoops to maintain my position. I almost wish they would have denied it just so I don’t have to worry about dealing with this issue at some point in time because let’s be real, this issue will likely come up again, if not every year – do I really WANT to deal with the headache?
Only time will tell.
So. The vaccine saga is over for now.
But I will continue to have a backup plan, just in case.
Thanks for reading.