A New York City waitress was fired from her job after she told her supervisors that she wanted to wait before she got the Covid-19 vaccine.
Bonnie Jacobson, of Brooklyn, said she was unexpectedly terminated from Red Hook Tavern on Monday, days after she expressed concern about how the vaccine affects fertility.
Jacobson said she and her husband had recently started trying to have a child, but their plans were put on hold after she lost her job in April due to the coronavirus pandemic.
After she began working at the tavern in August, she and her husband once again began planning for a child.
“I do support the vaccine. I’m not, as they say, an anti-vaxxer,” Jacobson said in a phone interview on Wednesday, telling NBC News that she feels there is still a lack of research about how the vaccine affects pregnant women.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that “the actual risks of mRNA vaccines to the pregnant person and her fetus are unknown because these vaccines have not been studied in pregnant women.”
The agency said that researchers have such studies planned and that both Pfizer and Moderna are monitoring people in the clinical trials who became pregnant.
Jacobson, 34, said her manager initially understood her concerns and told her that getting vaccinated was not required.
But days later, the tavern changed course and on Feb. 12 workers received an email stating that vaccinations were mandatory.
“Please be advised that we will require that all employees receive the vaccination,” the email, which Jacobson provided to NBC News, said.
“This will be mandatory for all existing employees and any new hires. The exception to this policy will be if your own personal health or disability prohibits you from obtaining this vaccination. We encourage you to consult your healthcare professional to determine if getting a vaccine is right for you.”
Jacobson said she emailed her job and said that she did not want to get the vaccine at this point and needed more time.
“While I fully support the vaccine and understand its importance I do believe this is a very personal choice. I really hope this choice would not affect my employment at Red Hook Tavern,” she wrote to her boss. “Also once there is more research to support that it does not affect fertility I would reconsider my position.”
Two days after she sent her email, she was told that she had been fired.
“It was really impersonal. I was honestly shocked,” she said. “My gut reaction was to just say, ‘OK. Fine, I’ll get it. I need my job.’ But that just didn’t sit right with me. I was like, ‘Actually, I don’t think that’s right. I don’t think that’s the choice I need to be making here.’ “
Jacobson said she does not want her job back, but hopes to encourage other businesses to approach mandating vaccinations differently.
“I think it’s important for other business owners to see this and tread lightly, and take into more consideration their employees’ feelings, especially if your employees have been working for you, putting themselves in danger throughout a pandemic,” she said.
Red Hook Tavern’s owner Billy Durney acknowledged that the situation could have been handled differently.
“Once New York state allowed restaurant workers to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, we thought this was the perfect opportunity to put a plan in place to keep our team and guests safe. No one has faced these challenges before and we made a decision that we thought would best protect everyone,” he said in an emailed statement.
“And, we now realize that we need to update our policy so it’s clear to our team how the process works and what we can do to support them. We’re making these changes immediately.”