A Santa Barbara County doctor who refuses to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is speaking out against the statewide requirement for health care workers to provide proof of vaccination starting Sept. 30.

Vaccine Hesitancy Among Medical Professionals

Hematologist and oncologist Dr. Mark Abate is one of the few medical practitioners who chose to remain unvaccinated despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and in spite of the recent surge brought about by the fast-spreading delta variant.

“I am personally against the current vaccine and testing mandates that currently affect health care workers and professionals in the State of California. I am personally against any form of vaccine mandate, or passport. I believe that they are divisive and do far more harm than good,” he told the Independent Wednesday.

An estimated 10% of the health care workers in the county are still unvaccinated for various reasons, and the mandatory vaccination could prove to be a problem for them at the end of the month. They may be forced out of their jobs unless they get the jabs or find a way to secure a medical or religious exemption.

The people behind the mandates only want to protect both the frontline workers and the patients based on the scientific reports and official directives from authorities that the vaccines are safe and they are effective in reducing the chances of having a severe form of the COVID-19 infection, as well as in preventing hospitalizations and death.

COVID-19 Vaccination Exemptions

For Abate, who has been practicing for more than 33 years with Sansum Medical Clinic, Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and Ridley-Tree Cancer Center, he would rather opt out of the vaccination requirement because of his personal values that are grounded on medical and religious reasons.

Abate clarified that he is not an anti-vaxxer. In fact, most of his family, friends and colleagues have already gotten the shots. According to him, it all boils down to giving each person the choice to either accept or deny the vaccines. “I haven’t been vaccinated all this time, and it was safe for me to practice. Now, all of a sudden after September 30, it’s no longer safe if I’m not vaccinated,” he added.

The cancer specialist is currently working on securing a religious exemption in order for him to continue reporting to work. However, he admitted that even then, the system would still be unfair to him and the other doctors who refuse to get vaccinated. As per the mandates, the unvaccinated health care workers will be tested twice a week. Testing negative would give them clearance to continue working.

Abate said that the setup would be a form of “discrimination” against the unvaccinated, seeing that all those who got the jabs wouldn’t be tested regularly. “If they truly were interested in safety, everybody should be tested,” he pointed out.

Abate has two other options if he will not to be granted with a religious exemption. He said he plans to seek a medical one if he is denied of the first one. Should he be denied both, he won’t be able to practice his profession anywhere in the state. And this would leave him no other choice but to consider taking things to court.

Rise In Religious Vaccine Exemptions

Amid the vaccination mandates across the country, more and more people are securing religious exemptions just to avoid getting vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2. About 2,600 Los Angeles Police Department workers are citing religious objections to evade the mandates, according to AP News.

Public health officials noticed that as vaccination requirements were put in place, numerous people in the country turned to religious exemption for refuge. As a result, this has now become the most widely used loophole against the vaccination programs.

Following U.S. President Joe Biden’s new vaccine mandates that cover millions of people working for the government and other businesses, the demand for religious exemptions is expected to soar in the coming months. Others may also seek for medical objections, citing certain medical conditions, to refuse the jabs.