LAKELAND, Fla. — A Lakeland-based clinic is requiring all its employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s the first medical center in the Tampa Bay Area to mandate vaccines.
“I see COVID here. Patients come in. They get CAT Scans. We see their lungs, it’s not pretty,” said Eddie Hudson.
Hudson is a nurse in the CAT Scan department at Watson Clinic in Lakeland. She’s fully vaccinated but said some of her colleagues still have not gotten the COVID-19 vaccine.
"I do have people in my department that say they're not going to get it,” Hudson said.
Dr. Steven Achinger, managing partner of Watson Clinic said 98% of physicians are vaccinated, but only 50% of employees that are not doctors have gotten the vaccine.
That's less than 55% of Polk County residents who have received at least one shot, according to state data.
All staff at Watson Clinic now have until November 1, to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or lose their job.
“The Delta variant, the increase in death and the disease burden in the community finally pushed us to understand that we have to do this. We have to take a stand on this issue,” said Achinger.
He said the vaccine mandate is to put patients' safety first.
“The mandate is that we are not going to spread illness to our patients that come to Watson Clinic. We're going to make it the safest environment to provide care,” Achinger said.
As for Hudson, she has this message:
“As healthcare workers, we need to step up and do the right thing,” she said.