About 150 people protested in front of the New Mexico State Capitol on Friday, demanding an end to vaccinations for medical workers.
Many protesters introduced themselves as hospital workers – nurses, paramedics and clerical workers. Other participants included correctional officers, retirees and children of medical workers.
A government mandate requires nurses and other workers in high-risk settings to be vaccinated, and some hospitals have their own mandates.
“I think the vaccine is bad,” said Nurse Practitioner Katrina Philpot, who picketed the road outside the Capitol building with a sign “Health workers deserve rights”.
Philpot said the hospital she works at in Rio Rancho requires her to be vaccinated by August 27 or fired. She fears that she will not be eligible for medical or religious waiver.
Government officials, including prison guards, are required to receive vaccines or undergo weekly testing. At least one prison guard has sued the state over this order.
Supportive drivers honked as they drove by, while those who disapproved shouted at the group.
In accordance with a public health order issued earlier this week, all workers in New Mexico hospitals and community health facilities must be fully vaccinated, with a few exceptions. California and Washington have similar regulations.
Those workers who have been granted benefits will continue to be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test every week.
When it comes to vaccinating people, New Mexico is ahead of its neighboring states. About two-thirds of residents aged 18 and over have been fully vaccinated, but state health officials warned that the data indicated that vaccinated people could still catch and spread the virus.
The latest data provided by the state shows that there have been at least 2,866 breakouts as of Aug. 9.
More than 223,000 infections have been reported since the start of the pandemic.
Federal officials are also urging people to get booster shots eight months after people get a second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, saying the signs indicate that the vaccines are waning over time.
Republican lawmakers and other New Mexico state officials have raised concerns about the governor’s powers, including the requirement that attendees at an upcoming New Mexico state fair must show proof of vaccination. Agricultural groups say that due to the short notice, some teens will not be able to take part in the annual children’s livestock show.
U.S. Congressman Yvette Herrell, the only Republican delegate from New Mexico, and other senior GOP officials sent a letter to the governor asking him to allow people to attend the fair if they test negative for COVID-19. They noted that many people, especially children from rural areas, are likely to be unable to receive the second dose in time.
“It’s unwise and harsh to ask families to choose between unwanted medical decisions and their child’s hard work,” said Belén State Senator Gregory Bucka. “Our rural families, who work year round to perform at the state fair, deserve to be included in this decision.”