When her employer in 2021 mandated all employees get the COVID-19 vaccine, Heather Elkins, who had a pre-existing heart condition, requested a medical exemption.
But the Oregon Department of Human Services turned down her application — even though Elkins had transitioned, in 2020, to a permanent work-from-home employee.
Elkins told The Defender:
“All State of Oregon employees were mandated by Gov. Kate Brown to be fully vaccinated from COVID-19 or to meet a qualifying exemption regardless of if the employee was working from home or not and if we did not comply, we would lose our job!”
Elkins, 45, was reluctant to get the vaccine for several reasons, she said:
“I am by no means against vaccines. With that being said, I was not comfortable with the COVID-19 vaccine for a number of reasons. First, I didn’t feel like there was enough known about it and the long-term effects it might have.
“Second, I saw reports stating people were developing heart issues, and given that I myself have a heart issue, I wasn’t feeling comfortable with getting the vaccine.”
She added: “It’s my body and the decision should be my choice! I know how my body reacts to trauma, illness, etc. I should be able to choose what goes in it.”
Elkins tried every available avenue in her attempt to get an exemption. She told The Defender:
“I spoke to management, HR and my union, [Service Employees International Union] SEIU, multiple times about how uneasy I felt getting the COVID-19 vaccine. I also spoke with my doctors … multiple times about my concerns and asked for a medical exemption. They kept advising me to get the vaccine and stated the ‘reward outweighs the risk.’
“I even contacted my cardiologist … and was transferred to my cardiologist’s nurse, who stated: ‘we are not advising on whether or not you should receive the COVID-19 vaccine.’”
Elkins said given the vaccines were causing heart issues, she thought her cardiologist, of all people, would be willing to weigh in.
“That wasn’t the case here, she said. “They turned a blind eye.”
After she ran out of options — including not meeting the requirements for a religious exemption, either — Elkins was forced to choose between the vaccine and her job.
Symptoms occurred ‘within an hour’ of first Pfizer shot
Elkins got the Pfizer vaccine on Sept. 12, 2021, and “within about an hour,” she said, began experiencing adverse reactions.
The reactions she experienced after the first shot didn’t qualify her for a medical exemption from the second shot, she said:
“I even asked for a medical exemption from the second dose of the vaccine after several visits to the doctor for severe symptoms after receiving the first dose of Pfizer.
“I was told that they were not giving medical exemptions because the ‘reward outweighs the risk.’”
So despite continued efforts to secure a medical exemption, Elkins received her second Pfizer shot on Oct. 3, 2021, and experienced “the same severe reaction as with the first dose.”
The symptoms included “severe headache[s], severe muscle aches, [a] racing heartbeat … nausea, severe fatigue and dizziness/balance issues, chest pressure/tightness, shortness of breath [and] a severe cough,” she said.
A year later, Elkins continues to experience symptoms that affect her ability to work.
Elkins told The Defender:
“To date, I’m experiencing all the same issues in addition to other symptoms like brain fog, horrible joint pain, pins and needles sensations, painful nerve zaps, shakiness and tremors in my hands and feet, and vision issues.
“At times, some of the symptoms are worse than others, but the symptoms as a whole have been so debilitating daily, I eventually couldn’t continue working and have had to go on workman’s compensation for now.”