Area residents rally to protest coerced vaccinations

By Sarah Brown

Lebanon Local

Approximately 150 people attended a rally at the north end of town Friday, Sept. 10, protesting mandatory vaccinations for employees in the healthcare field.

Attendees said healthcare workers should not be forced to take a vaccine in order to keep their job.

“If you want to get vaccinated or you don’t, it should be up to a person; not to government, not to the place where you’re working at, anywhere,” said Martha Lopez, who works in the industry.

Although Lopez is vaccinated herself, she stood with the others along Highway 20 across from Ixtapa Restaurant in support of coworkers who expect to lose their jobs next month if they don’t take the vaccine.

Gov. Kate Brown made an announcement last month that all healthcare and school workers are required to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18. It is expected that after that deadline, those workers who are not vaccinated or who have not qualified for an exemption due to disability or a religious reason will be terminated.

Lopez iterated what other attendees had to say: Nobody should be forced, scared or cornered into taking a vaccine in order to keep their job.

“It should always be your choice,” she said. “I believe that we all have freedom.”

During a press conference on Sept. 7, a reporter asked Gov. Brown if those terminated workers will qualify for unemployment benefits. Gov. Brown said she suspects that will be done on a case-by-case basis, depending on the particular circumstances with the employer.

“But my understanding is that, generally speaking, they will not be eligible for unemployment benefits,” Brown added.

Friends Amanda Primasing, Chealsey Walberg and Alicia McCoy do not work in healthcare or education, but stood together with signs protesting the loss of freedom. They said they came to support those who are not being given a choice.

“People will lose their homes from this,” Walberg said. “They will lose their jobs, they will lose their ability to keep their children, they will lose the ability to keep everything that they have that’s stability for their families.”

She added that nobody should be forced to change their lives and families based on something that’s political.

“We’ve become property,” Walberg said. “It starts with these people, the people who are saving us. Then it goes to the people who are feeding us, and then it goes to our children, and then it goes to nobody being safe from something that they are afraid of.”

Lindsay Pehrson, a nurse at risk of losing her job for not wanting to get vaccinated, said she helped organize the rally and is not willing to back down on the issue.

“It’s our choice. It’s my body,” Pehrson said. “We’ve been working tirelessly during this entire pandemic without a vaccine, and you’re not seeing a spread from healthcare professionals wearing their masks and everything while treating patients, and patients leaving the hospital with COVID acquired after their hospital stay. You’re not seeing that, so there’s no reason for me to get the vaccine.”

Pehrson said she wrote papers during her education about vaccines and believes she has a good understanding about how they work, and scientists won’t know the full effects of the COVID vaccines until at least 2023 when the trial phase is completed.

“We don’t know what effects it’s going to have on our bodies long-term, short-term. Many people have had anaphylactic episodes, other issues, you know, myocarditis, and it’s not something I’m willing to risk,” she said.

Pehrson said she believes the ribonucleic acid (RNA) used to make the vaccine changes how the T cells work in the body, decreasing the immune system.

“This is a whole new vaccine,” she said. “We have not done the RNA for vaccinations at all. And we haven’t had a vaccine for respiratory viruses that has been successful.”

It was a noisy scene around the corner of Tangent Street and Highway 20 as cars driving by honked their horns in support, with an occasional angry statement or “finger” from a driver-by.

Amber Allen held up a black American flag, which signifies “no quarter given,” or, rather, the opposite of surrender.

“We will not give any part up for free,” she said. “We’re going to fight until the end.”

Allen works in healthcare and does not plan to be vaccinated by the deadline. She will show up for work after the deadline and see what happens, she said.

Joseph Lehman stood by himself with a handmade sign stating, “No jabs for jobs.” He doesn’t work in an industry that, at this point in time, is forcing him to be vaccinated, but he stood at the rally to show support for those who find themselves in that situation.

“This is America,” Lehman said. “You should have the freedom to do what you want to do, you should have the freedom to make your own medical decisions.”