The battle over whether employees can be forced to get a COVID-19 vaccine is continuing to gather steam, even in settings where vaccines shouldn’t be controversial, such as hospitals.
Jamie Stengle of the Associated Press reported that “more than 150 employees at a Houston hospital system who refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine have been fired or resigned after a judge dismissed an employee lawsuit over the vaccine requirement.”
According to Stengle, “earlier this month, a federal judge threw out the lawsuit filed by 117 employees over the [new vaccination] requirement. The hospital system’s decision in April to require the vaccine for workers made it the first major U.S. health care system to do so.”
Following the Houston Methodist hospital system’s adoption of the new policy, many employees revolted, comparing the situation to “medical experiments performed on unwilling victims in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.” Several hospital employees then gathered to file the joint suit against their employer, refusing to get the vaccination.
“U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes called that comparison ‘reprehensible,’ and said claims made in the lawsuit that the vaccines are experimental and dangerous are false,” Stengle reported.
After she dismissed the lawsuit against the hospital on June 12, Hughes told employees that if they didn’t like the Houston Methodist’s vaccination policy, “they could go work elsewhere.”
“The hospital system had [originally] required employees to complete their immunization by June 7,” Stengle reported. “The next day, 178 employees were suspended for two weeks without pay for not complying.”
Jennifer Bridges, a registered nurse and lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against Houston Methodist said she has no faith in the safety or efficacy of the COVID vaccine.
“I’m hoping if we win this at a federal level, then they’re going to create laws to protect employees from having to go through this anywhere else in the country,” she told the AP.
Despite her fears, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has repeatedly said that ongoing comprehensive testing shows all the FDA-approved vaccines in the U.S. to be “safe and highly effective.”
Following Houston Methodist’s adoption of its vaccination policy, hospitals in Washington, D.C., Indiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York have also enacted similar policies — all with their own resulting levels of employee blowback and controversy.
“Legal experts say such vaccine requirements, particularly in a public health crisis, will probably continue to be upheld in court as long as employers provide reasonable exemptions, including for medical conditions or religious objections,” Stengle said.
Despite the controversy, Houston Methodist’s president and CEO Marc Boom said he was proud of the hospital’s decision. Following the court verdict, he released a statement to the more than 25,000 hospital employees, saying in part: “You did the right thing. You protected our patients, your colleagues, your families, and our community. The science proves that the vaccines are not only safe but necessary if we are going to turn the corner against COVID-19.”