WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — For many in the community, there is still much uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine as many healthcare officials recommend boosters amid the rise of the omicron variant.

Those trends are prompting the Wichita Falls TEA Party to again advocate for vaccine choice, and this time with the support of some employees from United Regional.

Those advocating for vaccine choice said they just want to be able to choose what feels right for them and not be forced to make a decision.

Many attended the latest TEA Party meeting in support of vaccine choice and to hear from Derek Ruvalcaba and Jordan Lindsey, both United Regional Health Care employees days away from a vaccine mandate deadline, something they said is putting many of their co-workers in a tough position.

“100% of our staff are affected by this, and that is because even though if they’re not leaving, whether they’re vaccinated or unvaccinated, they’re going to feel the strain and the stress from all those that have left or refused to get the vaccine,” Ruvalcaba said.

Lindsey, who works in the Emergency Room at United Regional, said he already sees how this mandate is affecting those around him.

“We’ve had more than a 35% turnover of nursing staff in just two months, so that’s those leaving the facility and those left behind left to pick up the pieces and fill in those gaps,” Lindsey said.

With so many feeling strongly about the Covid-19 vaccination being a choice, health care officials like MSU Medical Director Dr. Keith Williamson advise that getting the vaccine now is a good choice to make.

“The vaccine is absolutely no risk,” Williamson said. “It’s a minor inconvenience compared to the disease. The easy choice, the easy way out of that conundrum, is just to get the vaccine.”

Even with the omicron strand of the virus hitting the U.S. at the peak of holiday travel season, Lindsey still shares the opinion that getting the vaccine should be a choice, not a mandate.

“Vaccinated individuals contract Covid, a less severe infection is what we see, but they still contract it,” Lindsey said. “They can still spread it, and they are still vulnerable to Covid-19.”

These employees said this mandate not only affects them, but this community as a whole.

“It’s going to have an impact on the care that’s going to be provided by what they’re able to do and what we’re going to be able to do at the hospital, and the patients will feel that as well,” Ruvalcaba said.

“As a fellow Texan, a Wichitan, I would urge everybody to get the vaccine,” Williamson said. “It’s not infringing on your freedom so much as it’s opening up the doors of freedom – freedom from the epidemic.”

There’s still the question of whether there should be the freedom to choose whether to get the shot or not.

The deadline for employees of United Regional Health Care to show proof of vaccination or exemption is Sunday, December 5.