SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Two hundred or more people gathered in front of the Sanford Medical Center Friday to protest mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations at workplaces.

Last week, Sanford Health announced all employees will be required to get the vaccine by November 1.

Along 18th street and Grange Avenue Friday afternoon, messages promoting medical freedom and discouraging the COVID-19 vaccine could be seen and heard from protesters.

“I don’t agree with being forced to take an injection, which is not FDA approved and which has had documented deaths from just the vaccine plus a lot of additional, adverse reactions from the vaccines. And I don’t think it’s right for any employer to force you to choose between your health and your job,” Donna Driesen, protester and retired Sanford radiology employee, said.

The three COVID-19 vaccines being given in the U.S. have received Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA. The CDC is tracking adverse events following COVID-19 vaccinations. According to the CDC, more than 342 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from December 14, 2020, through July 26, 2021. During that time frame, VAERS received 6,340 reports of death (0.0019%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine. 

“We believe that, like I said, the debate is not, has not been debated the effectiveness of the vaccine or the safety of the vaccine,” Lora Hubbel, protester from Sioux Falls and former Sioux Valley nurse, said. “It’s an emergency-use authorization product, okay. It’s not even a vaccine according to the official definition of a vaccine.”

Definition of vaccine: 1. a preparation that is administered (as by injection) to stimulate the body’s immune response against a specific infectious agent or disease: such as
a: an antigenic preparation of a typically inactivated or attenuated (see ATTENUATED sense 2) pathogenic agent (such as a bacterium or virus) or one of its components or products (such as a protein or toxin)
b: a preparation of genetic material (such as a strand of synthesized messenger RNA) that is used by the cells of the body to produce an antigenic substance (such as a fragment of virus spike protein)
2: a preparation or immunotherapy that is used to stimulate the body’s immune response against noninfectious substances, agents, or diseases


Dr. Mike Wilde, the vice-president medical officer of Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, says 95 percent of Sanford’s physicians have already made the choice to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We certainly can respectfully disagree, however, as you look at the science that’s out there, and just the in excess of a hundred million vaccines given and the safety around those, we can very confidently support the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine,” Wilde said.

Protesters got support from cars passing by and honking while some Sanford employees watched from across the street.

“If a business, Sanford, a business, can do what the state cannot do, we’re screwed. You know, we have to say, this is far enough,” Hubbel said.

“So if you insist that people have the vaccine and then they leave, they’re taking their training and their information away from your institution,” Driesen said.

Wilde says Sanford Health made its decision because leaders strongly believe the vaccine is what will keep both their employees and their patients safe.

“What we saw during the surge of the pandemic is that us as caregivers are human as well and we can get affected by this virus,” Wilde said. “And so, we need to be there for the people that we serve and as variants continue, as this pandemic continues, we need to be there. And the vaccination is a great way to keep us well, healthy and able to serve the community that comes to us.”

Organizers for Friday’s protest says it wasn’t just for Sanford employees, but for anyone being forced to get the COVID-19 vaccine at their workplace.

Sanford employees are also required to get the flu shot every year, however, they can get medical or religious exemptions for any vaccination, including COVID-19.

This week, both the Mayo Clinic and US Department of Veteran’s Affairs also announced vaccination requirements for their health care employees.