‘This is a first for me’: Former URMC employee now out of job after opting out on vaccine

Coronavirus

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As of Monday, James Harold is no longer employed after deciding he didn’t want to get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Since 2019, Harold said he worked as an Analyst Programmer at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He helped manage the companies two factor authentication system, account security, and programming, among other things.

But as of Monday, he’s out of a job.

“I’ve never been fired from a job. I’ve never been reprimanded at a job. My performance has always been solid everywhere I’ve been. This is this is a first for me,” Harold said. 

The vaccine mandate goes into effect for hospital staff members across New York on Monday. Although Harold works in the Information Security Department, he was still required by URMC to get the vaccine. But he chose not to.

“I personally want to wait until the like more long-term studies were done. This vaccine didn’t exist two years ago. So I think that I’d certainly like to see some longer term studies,” Harold explained. 

While the CDC has said the vaccine is safe and effective for Americans, Harold said he doesn’t think it should be mandated. The 27-year-old said he didn’t feel comfortable getting the shot.

“I worked from home and I’ve been working from home since March of 2020. So it didn’t seem at all relevant to my job position whether I was vaccinated or not, and it seemed like an invasion of my privacy,” Harold said. 

Harold isn’t the only one who doesn’t want to get the vaccine. For many weeks, hospital staff and local residents have  been protesting the mandate outside of Strong Memorial Hospital.

The potential staffing shortages are already being felt in some places.  

As of Monday, Strong Memorial is not scheduling new elective surgeries for the two-week period. The hospital says this will free up staff who could be redeployed to critical care areas.

As for what’s next? Harold also said the hospital told him his termination was voluntary and he wouldn’t be receiving unemployment. He’s now searching for a new job, but it could be tricky as more and more companies require vaccination. 

“I just I don’t know what I’m going to do. Because I see that this seems to be just expanding and getting worse and worse,” Harold said. “I think the next job I get is going to be for small business or somewhere where there’s a lot less bureaucracy and a lot less control, because I don’t want to be put in the same position again.”

As of Monday morning, Strong Memorial Hospital had 97.5% of clinical employees eligible to continue working as the mandate takes effect.

  • 95% of clinical staff at the hospital have had at least one dose of the vaccine, up from 92% last Thursday.
  • 2% of clinical staff have received approved religious or medical exemptions. These staff members will have to continue weekly testing and daily symptom checks.

All clinical staff will have to continue with PPE requirements.

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