TOWSON, Md. (WJZ) — Nurses from Greater Baltimore Medical Center are protesting the hospital’s vaccine mandate, saying their religious and medical exemptions are not being honored.

The mandate went into effect last month.

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A small group of nurses was out in front of the hospital on Thursday with signs.

“It was OK for us to work throughout the pandemic and it was OK for us to work without the flu vaccine year after year, but suddenly it’s not OK for us to work now,” nurse Casey Starshine said.

Casey Starshine has been a hospice nurse with GBMC for 3 1/2 years and has had a religious exemption the entire time.

GBMC’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate says that patients with direct patient contact must be vaccinated. The hospital is not honoring religious exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine.

The hospital sent WJZ this statement:

“GBMC has determined that unvaccinated employees providing direct patient care may present a threat to the health and safety of vulnerable patients, and so granting religious exemptions would present an undue hardship.”

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The statement also said the hospital is approving some medical exemptions.

Nurse Christine Watson said her medical exemption was denied. She is breastfeeding.

“I don’t think there is any data to tell me that it’s safe for a breastfeeding baby at this time,” Watson said.

Watson said she will be placed on suspension this month and fired at the end of the year.

“I’m not taking it while I’m breastfeeding,” Watson said. “Under no circumstance am I taking it. So, if GBMC wants to part ways with me then we will.”

GBMC says less than 2% of its staff is unvaccinated without an exemption.

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The hospital system said it will work with those employees to find them a job within the system that does not directly deal with patient care.

Jessica Albert