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After filing religious exemption, St. Luke's physical therapist decides to get COVID-19 vaccine

Kay Craig has worked for St. Luke's Health System for more than 28 years. When she saw the strain COVID-19 was having on the community, she got the shot.

BOISE, Idaho — Vaccination rates continue to climb nationwide, but not as quickly here in Idaho. Slightly more than half of Idaho's eligible population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Currently, the Gem State trails far behind the national average with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the county.

One by one, however, more Idahoans are choosing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, including healthcare workers.

Kay Craig, a physical therapist, has worked for St. Luke's Health System for more than 28 years. When St. Luke's announced they would require all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, she was first in line to fill out a religious exemption.

"I was just kind of skeptical. I didn't want to wear the mask, I didn't want to get vaccinated," Craig said. "I just called on God, and I wanted to walk with him and be obedient. So when the mandate came out, I was again being told what to do and I really didn't feel like God was saying to get it. He said, 'Just wait.'"

Craig's supervisors were supportive of her decision to not get the vaccine for religious reasons. As life carried on, so did the pandemic.

"I have a very dear friend in the ICU and it just caused me to think more and to question [things]," she said.

About a month ago, Craig traveled out of town for surgery. When she returned, she saw firsthand how the pandemic was overwhelming Idaho's hospitals. 

"I didn't believe them when they said it was 98% or 96% unvaccinated and through my own research, it truly is," she said. "I looked in the ICU today and it's 27-year-olds, it's 33-year-olds, it's 60-year-olds. I had another good friend and her brother-in-law died at 40." 

At this point, Craig decided she had seen enough and received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

"I don't feel any different than when I was unvaccinated because I was just following Christ," she said. "I have peace. I had peace before, I have peace now. It's funny, there are some like my parents. They never said anything to me but now that I am vaccinated they are like, 'Phew' you know? Because you worry about your kids."

Craig is not the only person in this position but has a message for other Idahoans who are in a similar religious predicament.

"Anything that's even said at church, even if it comes from the pulpit, you gotta still have a personal relationship with Jesus," she said. "You gotta read it for yourself. Yeah, they went to school or that, but they are human, too. Doctors are human, too. So do your own research and believe it for yourself and have faith for yourself."

While she firmly believes the choice to get vaccinated is a personal one, she said the choice to protect your neighbors should be a community-wide commitment.

"It is a journey and a process and the more we can come together, the more it's going to get over faster because the hostility and the anger and the fear is killing us, too," Craig said.

At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.

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