LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Some health care workers are protesting a vaccine mandate by one local hospital group.

Employees and other supporters lined up for what organizers called a "Protest for Medical Freedom" outside Baptist Health Hardin in Elizabethtown on Wednesday morning. Many had signs reading "We do not consent," "We demand vaccine choice" and "Tyranny by needle."

WDRB News counted more than 70 people in attendance. 

Baptist Health joined UofL Health and Norton Healthcare this week in requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Health officials said medical workers are a key point of transmission for the coronavirus and the delta variant.

Baptist Health Hardin released a statement saying the safety of patients, physicians and staff are the hospital's top priority. "

While we respect the staff’s rights to express their opinions peacefully, we ultimately have the responsibility to protect the community members we are here to serve. Vaccinations reduce overall hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and death. The severity of illness is much less for those who have been vaccinated."

The hospital says one of its leading  pulmonologists and critical care physicians says almost all of the COVID-19-related deaths in 2021 have been patients that have not been vaccinated. 

The Baptist Health system says in the statement that between 65 and 70 percent of its 23,000 employees have been vaccinated.       

The three hospital groups said there will be vaccine exceptions for approved religious and medical reasons.

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