DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Nearly 200 Duke Health employees could be fired this week after they failed to comply with the health care system’s mandate which required employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 21.

Duke Health officials said in an email that these employees have been placed on unpaid administrative leave, and they have seven days to comply or seek a medical or religious exemption.

If they don’t, they could be dismissed from the organization.

One Duke Health employee spoke with CBS 17 on Monday and said she had been placed on unpaid administrative leave Friday because she decided not to get the COVID vaccine.

“Right now, I think it should just be a personal choice if you want to get it or not,” the worker said.

She did not want to reveal her name or show her face during the interview but said that she has worked in the pharmacy department at Duke Health for 21 years.

She said she was surprised when she heard they were going to mandate the vaccine because it is still new.

“I just feel like there should be more time with the vaccine to see how it’s really going to pan out,”
she said. “I just felt like I had questions about the vaccine, that I wasn’t getting answers to. I just feel uncomfortable putting that in my body knowing there are still unknowns.”

Duke Health officials have said that they have an obligation to keep their patients, employees, and the entire community safe as a health care organization, which is why they decided to mandate employees get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I don’t disagree with that, I disagree that they want to mandate it when we worked throughout this whole pandemic with proper PPE and health and safety guidelines without a vaccine,” she said. “The vaccine was still being developed at that time, and there’s still stuff we don’t know about it now.”

She said she has no plans of getting the vaccine in the next week and she said she would not qualify for a religious or medical exemption.

She said she is prepared to be terminated on Friday and she got emotional during the interview because she had hoped to retire from Duke Health.

“Our rights are not being protected right now,” she said. “If I let them fire me, I feel like I’m taking a stand for those who want to do the same, but they just can’t.”

She said she doesn’t have another job lined up and she is considering getting out of the medical field. She said she is thankful her husband has a job right now to support their family during this time.

Duke Health said the nearly 200 employees facing administrative action for not complying with the vaccine mandate make up less than 1 percent of their overall workforce.