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Opponents of IU Health’s latest vaccine mandate from across the state are planning to protest at 3 p.m. Saturday on the canal, behind IU Fairbanks Hall.

Since the announcement that all employees will have to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 1, a petition has garnered thousands of signatures. The protest has been planned in hopes of eliminating the requirement.

Traci Staley, an IU Health employee, started a Facebook group a week ago that’s garnered the attention of more than 3,000 people. Staley told WIBC’s Rob Kendall Thursday that the expected turnout is already larger than originally anticipated.

“We have 4,100 people as of this morning,” Staley told Kendall, “and I know that there are several others that are not joining but are going to show up – they just are afraid of retaliation if they join, so we are we’re really just going to talk about medical freedom.”

IU Health sent an email to employees in June announcing that all employees must be fully vaccinated by Sept. 1 to remain employed with the company. The requirement applied not only to hospital staff that comes into contact with patients, but also to office staff, contractors, and vendors.

An exemption to the mandate is available, but Staley said a large number of IU Health employees who applied for that exemption have been denied.

“They’re talking about how exemptions are allowed as if they’re just super easy to get, but I already know several that have been denied,” Staley said.

“But this issue is really even bigger than,” she continued. “I don’t feel like employers should even be able to make this a condition of employment. They are threatening our livelihood because we won’t comply with an experimental vaccine.”

Staley stressed that Saturday’s protest is about more than the vaccine mandate.

“We’re really trying to stress that medical mandates lead to medical discrimination and medical segregation, and we are already seeing it,” she said. “We just received an email this morning saying that fully vaccinated team members can unmask, but those who are not vaccinated have to keep that mask on and social distance. So we’re going to stick out like sore thumbs.”

Click below to hear Rob Kendall’s full interview with Traci Staley.