SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – People against the COVID-19 vaccine mandate gathered Friday outside of Spartanburg Medical Center.

According to Spartanburg Regional, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is requiring hospital and health system workers to be fully vaccinated by January 4, 2022.

Officials said this applies to all current staff, including associates, students, volunteers, residents and medical staff, regardless of whether their positions are clinical or non-clinical. According to the medical center, they are doing so to comply with federal policy.

Spartanburg Regional said in a release, the CMS regulation requires healthcare systems that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs, including the local medical center in Spartanburg, to ensure its workers are fully vaccinated.

This will come in two phases: Phase 1 requires all providers and associates to have at least one dose by Dec. 6. Phase 2 requires all employees to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4.

Exemptions for the vaccine must be submitted by November 22nd. People can apply under the Americans with Disabilities Act or because of religious beliefs, observances, or practices established under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

On Friday, people expressed their stance on Spartanburg Regional’s recent mandate, including some employees. Many of them urged to have choice.

“If you want the vaccine, it’s available to you, and that’s a wonderful thing. If that’s what you want. But, for those people who have convictions and have warnings about this in their own mind, they shouldn’t be forced to do it,” said protester Scott Scrimpsher.

7News spoke with many protesters who explained that they are in favor of medical freedom and want to be able to make their own decisions on whether or not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“People think this is just about health, but it’s actually about our freedoms,” said protester Heidi Matson.

“We have to let people know that it’s very important to us. It’s not a decision that we came about lightly,” said Christina Hill, a nurse at Spartanburg Regional.

People held signs outside of the medical center with messages on them, including “have freedom to choose” and “say no to mandates”.

“We are all very passionate about what we do. We are nurses for a reason because we love people and we care about people. We want the best for people. We don’t want to be forced to do something without having the choice in the matter and losing our career that we’ve worked hard for,” said Casey Blanton a nurse at Spartanburg Regional.

“These were heroes, literally a few days ago, these people were called heroes. Now they are called villains because they are standing up for their fundamental right to what they can do with their body,” said Scrimpsher.

7News reached out to Spartanburg Regional to find out what will happen if employees do not comply with the mandate, but they declined to comment any further.