BUCKHANNON — West Virginia House of Delegates members Carl “Robbie” Martin and Adam Burkhammer recently requested a Special Session with Governor Jim Justice regarding vaccine mandates from employers across the state.
Protests have been underway in Morgantown from WVU Medicine health care workers who will potentially lose their jobs come October 31, if they do not take the vaccine. People took to the sidewalks near Patteson Drive to protest against this vaccination mandate.
Martin and Burkhammer both made public announcements this week regarding their requests for a Special Session. In his request to Governor Justice, Martin stated, “Over the past few weeks I have been contacted by numerous West Virginians who are facing termination from their employer because of their inability to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Some individuals are unable to receive the vaccine for medical concerns, moral and religious reasons.” His letter continued, “Pursuant to Article 6, Section 19, of the West Virginia Constitution, I so hereby submit this application in writing, requesting that you convene the Legislature forthwith.”
Similar to Martin’s concerns, Burkhammer explained that he has also received countless phone calls, emails, and text messages from concerned West Virginians, asking them to stop the recent vaccine mandate. Burkhammer submitted his request to Governor Justice for a Special Session on September 1.
Burkhammer told The Record Delta Friday afternoon, “This decision was made after I had received countless calls, emails, and messages, most being health care workers, asking the legislature to intervene, as almost every health care provider in the state recently mandated the Covid vaccine for their staff. Many of the health care workers have stated they will be leaving their profession or leave the state if this isn’t stopped. I am not sure that we want to take that risk. The health care industry is already working short staffed, and I don’t think we can stand to lose any others as we continue to fight COVID.”
Burkhammer noted that he has an obligation to listen to the concerns made by these health care workers, as “they are on the front lines, they are the medical professionals,” he expressed and added, “and if they are questioning the vaccine, I think we should listen.” Burkhammer emphasized he is not against the vaccine, and said he is thankful for the brilliant minds that have created it to try and eradicate this horrible virus. However, he added, “This isn’t necessarily just about the vaccines for health care workers, it is about freedom for all West Virginians. Freedom for a person to choose what is the best course of action for their health, their family, and their life. I know numbers are rising and I know everyone is wanting this to end, but forcing people to do something against their will so that they can continue to work is not the answer.” Burkhammer concluded, “Let’s continue to study all the vaccines, let’s work on better treatment, let’s work together and we will get through this.”
WVU Medicine’s response to the protest stated, “We respect people’s rights to express their feelings and opinions on this topic, but a public health crisis demands a public health response. Our providers are on the frontlines caring for the people in this community; we cannot have them sidelined due to COVID as doing so jeopardizes patient care. The FDA-approved vaccine, which hundreds of millions of Americans have received, is safe and effective.”
Davis Health System and Mon Health have also announced that they will be requiring all employees to be fully vaccinated. Hospitals included in DHS are Davis Medical Center, Broaddus Hospital and Webster County Memorial Hospital. Employees of these facilities will be required to receive both doses of the Pfizer vaccine by October 31. Mon Health has not announced a deadline as to when their employees must be vaccinated.
These mandates were reportedly in response to the West Virginia Hospital Association’s recent announcement, supporting health care systems to require COVID-19 vaccines from their employees.
Stay tuned for more updates in The Record Delta regarding the status of a potential Special Session in Charleston in response to health systems mandating vaccines for employees.