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The Houston Methodist Hospital System in Texas suspended 178 workers for failing to meet a deadline to receive the COVID-19 vaccine – a policy that has prompted more than 100 employees to take legal action against the hospital. Employees now have until June 21 to be vaccinated, or risk of being made redundant.
The deadlock represents one of the most high-profile examples of how employers’ desire for their workers to be fully immunized is tested by the deep reluctance of some employees towards vaccines – and in this case , the dispute is playing out within the health system. .
Houston Methodist employees who do not want to be vaccinated say the vaccines are dangerous and even “experimental.” In response, the hospital notes that hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine were safely administered after a verification process that included three rounds of clinical trials.
Over 600 employees obtained exemptions or deferrals
The nearly 200 employees who missed the hospital’s vaccination deadline are now suspended without pay. The group, which includes both full-time and part-time employees, had 14 days to comply, or they could lose their jobs.
Holders include 27 workers who have already received a dose of vaccine; they could complete the diet by the next deadline, according to Dr. Marc Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist.
“I hope they get their second doses soon,” Boom said in an email to staff this week. In addition, he said more than 600 employees have been granted exemptions or deferrals for the vaccine requirement.
The 117 employees who filed complaints are only a small fraction of the approximately 26,000 employees at Houston Methodist, Boom said.
What employees who hesitate to vaccinate say
Houston Methodist employees who resist the policy note that vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are still not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Rather, they are administered through emergency use authorization.
But some of the vaccines are now awaiting full approval, and since the initial rollout their use has been cleared for more and more parts of the population as health experts deem their side effects and symptoms to be. negligible, especially in relation to potential risks. posed by COVID-19. The disease has caused more than 3.7 million deaths worldwide, and some of those infected with the coronavirus have suffered long-term debilitating effects.
“We just want more time,” Jennifer Bridges, a Methodist nurse in Houston, said recently of employees’ reluctance to get vaccinated. “We want it to be fully FDA approved, and we want more proper research before I’m comfortable putting it in my body.”
In an interview with NPR Here NowBridges also said that even if the FDA gives full approval to the vaccines, it will stay away.
“There is no long-term data,” she said. “So even if they approve it now, there is still nothing to say about what could possibly happen in two, three, four years.”
Hospital responds to employee allegations
Boom disagrees with Bridges, saying his concerns about vaccine safety appear to be based on misinformation.
“This is anti-vaccination rhetoric, and unfortunately [it’s] at stake with a healthcare professional, ”said Boom Here Now after some of its employees filed a vaccine requirement complaint.
Bridges also alleged that doctors have been discouraged from reporting patient adverse reactions to vaccines – a claim Boom dismissed as “utter nonsense and frankly, quite offensive.”
Bridges is the main plaintiff in the employee lawsuit, which is led by Jared Woodfill, a Houston lawyer and Conservative activist who once led the Harris County Republican Party.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently clarified that employers have the legal right to require COVID-19 vaccines for people who will be working on site. The rule reflects existing policies for other vaccines, such as the flu shot.
Some employers have made the vaccination of their workers compulsory; others stick to incentives and bonuses designed to persuade reluctant employees to roll up their sleeves. Houston Methodist is among them, having offered bonuses of $ 500 to vaccinated workers earlier this year. The hospital chain then made vaccinations compulsory.
Immunization rates drop high
The United States has now administered more than 300 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and 141 million people are fully vaccinated, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since the first vaccines became available to the public in December, more than 50% of the eligible U.S. population (ages 12 and older) have been fully immunized.
Like many southern states, Texas has lagged behind other regions in delivering vaccine doses per capita. But in the south, Texas only tracks Florida and Virginia in that same metric. In Harris County, which includes Houston, more than 56% of the eligible population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to state health data.
Across the country, many communities are brimming with optimism about a return to a more normal summer, although the effects of the pandemic are still being felt and mourning. COVID-19 has killed nearly 600,000 people in the United States and more than 33 million cases have been reported, according to the CDC.
US pressure to vaccinate large parts of the public peaked in April; since then, the most recent seven-day averages have been roughly equivalent to the rates last seen in early January (excluding weekends and holidays).
For some, reluctance to vaccination is well established
The arrival and wide availability of three COVID-19 vaccines has helped reduce hospitalization and death rates in the United States, where the national rate of new cases has fallen to levels not seen since the first weeks of the pandemic.
But much of the American public has shown reluctance to receive any of the new COVID-19 vaccines.
Last month, 73% of U.S. adults said they had already received or planned to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, according to an NPR / PBS NewsTime/ Marist survey. But that left about a quarter of American adults who said they would not get the shot.
These numbers are only slightly better than expectations formed when the first vaccines were heading for federal authorization. At the end of last year, a Gallup survey found that 63% of Americans said they would be ready to be vaccinated against the disease if an FDA-approved vaccine was available.