Hospital workers in Texas who refused to get a COVID-19 vaccine as part of company policy are now facing termination after a deadline came and went this week, prompting some workers to gather in protest.
Dozens of people carrying signs and waving American flags gathered outside of the Houston Methodist Hospital on Monday, some in support of the workers and others joining after their final hospital shift ended.
“I cried the whole way out,” nurse Jennifer Bridges, one of 117 health care workers who recently filed a lawsuit against the hospital over its vaccine requirement, told local station KHOU.
Several dozen waiting for Baytown Methodist employees to walk out after they refused to get the vaccine shot per company policy.Jennifer Bridges, a registered nurse here, was the first to speak out. Now a little more than 200 employees are suing the hospital. pic.twitter.com/vCsgpA5Z9I
— Mayra Moreno ABC13 (@MayraABC13) June 8, 2021
The medical center’s 26,000 employees had been given until Monday to get the vaccine. Those who failed to do so would be suspended for two weeks without pay starting on Tuesday. Those workers now have until June 21 to get vaccinated or they will be terminated, the hospital told its staff in a policy statement back in April.
Employees can request to be exempt from the vaccination for medical reasons, including pregnancy, and “sincerely held religious beliefs,” the hospital has said. Any approved exemption would only be valid for the year it was approved.
By the end of May, 99% of the hospital’s staff had met the vaccination requirement, the hospital’s president and CEO, Marc Boom, said in a statement to HuffPost last month.
The hospital on Monday shared its disappointment with those who refused to comply with the mandate but said they make up only a small number.
“It is unfortunate that today’s milestone of Houston Methodist becoming the safest hospital system in the country is being overshadowed by a few disgruntled employees,” Boom said in a statement to KHOU.
Sergio Flores via Getty Images A nurse fills up a syringe with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in San Antonio, Texas. Dozens of people gathered outside of the Houston Methodist Hospital on Monday to protest a mandatory vaccination policy for workers.
The hospital has argued that health care institutions are legally allowed to mandate vaccinations among its workers. It also insisted that the vaccines currently available in the U.S. have been proven to be safe.
Skeptical workers hit back in a lawsuit filed against the hospital late last month, accusing the hospital of forcing them to become “human ‘guinea pigs’ as a condition for continued employment.”
The lawsuit appeared to largely take issue with the vaccines having been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use. It incorrectly claimed that this meant that the vaccines were experimental and therefore potentially unsafe.
Vaccines that have received emergency use authorization have completed clinical trials that demonstrate the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. Because they have undergone such clinical research and authorization, they are not considered experimental.
Pfizer started its application for full FDA approval on its coronavirus vaccine last month.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency established to administer and enforce laws against workplace discrimination, issued updated guidance late last month that defends employers’ legal right to require COVID-19 vaccines among employees in a physical workplace.
This requirement is legal so long as employers provide reasonable accommodation. Those who do not get vaccinated because of a disability or a religious belief, practice or observation may be entitled to an exception to a workplace vaccine requirement in exchange for wearing a mask, social distancing, changing schedules or reassignment, the EEOC’s website states.
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