SNOHOMISH — In the middle of what local health officials consider a fifth wave of COVID-19 cases, local health care workers and other members of the community lined the intersection of Second Street and Avenue D Thursday evening to protest vaccine mandates.
Many of the roughly 30 protesters, most of whom were unmasked, carried signs. Messages ranged from “Our bodies our choice” to “Masks are child abuse” and “No jab no job is UNAMERICAN.” Some wore Trump hats and carried 13-star and thin-blue-line flags.
On Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced that state employees and private health care workers would be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-October — or they could lose their jobs. On Thursday, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal asked Inslee for a similar mandate for educators.
Despite the state exceeding the 500,000-case mark on Wednesday, with Snohomish County accounting for over 40,000, discussion of vaccine mandates ignited some locals who are opposed to the COVID-19 shots.
Within the crowd opposing vaccine mandates was a private school administrator and a nursing school student. Those present cited various reasons for coming out to the intersection to wave signs.
Some said they feel that mandating vaccines is a violation of their personal liberties.
One protester, Eric Marchant, who was wearing a shirt that said “I’m just here to kill commies,” said he does not believe the mandate is for public health.
“Not to come across as a crazy conspiracy theorist, but at the end of the day, people have to use their own minds for their own health, and the government coming down and telling us we need to do A, B or C — it makes no sense,” he said.
Vaccine mandates are not new in Washington.
Any child attending school, preschool or child care in Washington is required by law to be fully immunized against Chickenpox, Diphtheria, German measles, Hepatitis B, Mumps, Pneumococcal disease, Polio, Tetanus, Whooping Cough and Measles.
Other protesters cited fear regarding the safety of the vaccines.
Both clinical and real-world data have demonstrated that the benefit — reducing the risk of a severe case of COVID-19 — outweighs the vaccines’ risks, including rare cases of anaphylaxis and Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks nerves.
According to July reporting by The New York Times, about 100 cases of Guillain-Barré were reported among nearly 13 million shots.
Kris Binder, a nurse at Overlake Medical Center who helped organize the protest, said she does not feel comfortable taking a vaccine that is being distributed under the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization and which she feels is experimental. However, she said, she will continue to wear a mask at work.
Protecting patients from disease — “that’s the moral thing to do,” she said. “I’m a nurse.”
A study published in early June revealed that fully or partially vaccinated people are less likely to spread the virus to others.
The vaccines are currently the best defense against COVID-19, according to a recent statement from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This study shows you are twice as likely to get infected again if you are unvaccinated,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky in the statement. “Getting the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others around you, especially as the more contagious Delta variant spreads around the country.”
Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; email@example.com. Twitter: @BredaIsabella.