Arkansas woman says she lost her job for refusing COVID-19 vaccine

With pandemic fatigue reaching new heights, millions of Americans are relying on COVID-19 vaccines to bring the country back to something resembling normality in the near future, but significant controversy over whether the jab should be mandatory remains.

Illustrative of the divide in this country over compulsory shots is the case of an Arkansas woman who claims she was fired from employment at a marijuana dispensary due to her refusal to to accept the coronavirus vaccine, as the Washington Examiner reports.

The trouble arose, according to Little Rock NBC affiliate KARK, when Samantha Wise received word that she was being dismissed from her job at the Harvest Cannabis Dispensary in Conway, Arkansas after she let her supervisor know she had no plans to be vaccinated. “They actually did it – they really fired me – I didn’t think it was really going to happen,” Wise said.

The former dispensary employee cited a prior history of severe reactions to medications as the reason for her decision regarding the COVID-19 jab, stating, “I am always that 1 out of every 10 or so that has a bad reaction. I am that one – so, I would just rather not.” However, that explanation did not wash at her workplace, where vaccinations – with formulations that only have emergency use authorization and lack full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — are deemed mandatory due to the “high risk” nature of their medical marijuana clientele.

Robbin Rahman, executive director of the dispensary explained, saying, “Harvest’s employees encounter upwards of 500 patients per day, often serving them in a one-on-one encounter,” adding, “…absent a targeted program, a medical marijuana dispensary like Harvest would pose a serious threat to the very people it is designed to help,” as the Examiner reported.

Interestingly, the dispensary does have a policy in place designed to accommodate employees who declined vaccination due to religious or medical grounds, but Rahman did not elaborate on why Wise was not permitted to take advantage of the exception.

Though debate continues on whether private employers can or should require coronavirus vaccination as a condition of continued employment, Wise’s case is illustrative of broader concerns about increasing encroachment on personal liberty by commercial enterprises and governmental agencies alike.

The freedom to abstain from – or simply delay – acceptance of any new vaccine or medication for which clinical trials are still ongoing is something many Americans are unwilling to abandon, particularly when they have determined that their personal illness risk profile does not justify doing so.

Add to that the frustration felt by those who hear public health authorities declare that masking, social distancing, and other oppressive pandemic-related precautions must continue even post-vaccination, and it should come as no surprise that demand for COVID-19 shots is showing signs of decline, and people in greater numbers are adopting a wait-and-see approach.