178 staff at a Houston Methodist Hospital have been suspended after refusing to acquire the COVID-19 vaccination despite a deadline of this week for inoculation.
The hospital said on Tuesday that 178 full-time or part-time staff who were not completely vaccinated and were not granted an exemption or deferral were suspended for 14 days without pay for failing to meet the criteria.
Those who have been suspended will be fired if they do not get vaccinated within the two-week timeframe, according to a hospital official.
Dr. Marc Boom, president, and CEO of Houston Methodist Hospital stated in a statement that virtually all of the hospital’s employees had complied with the rule and that 24,947 people had been properly vaccinated.
“I am confident they will get their second doses soon,” he added of the suspended staff, who had all got one dosage of the vaccination.
“We won’t have definitive statistics for two weeks since staff may still get their second dosage or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” Boom added. “I want the number could be zero, but a tiny number of people have opted not to prioritize their patients.”
He claimed 285 employees were given medical or religious exemptions, while 332 were given deferrals due to pregnancy or other reasons.
117 Houston Methodist workers sued the hospital last month for requiring immunization. The hospital was accused of “illegally ordering its workers to be injected with an experimental vaccination as a condition of employment,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed in Montgomery County.
The FDA gave its first emergency use permission for COVID-19 in December 2020, according to the complaint, but the vaccines are still pending full FDA clearance and licensing, which will likely take months while the agency reviews new evidence.
The lawsuit claims that forcing the plaintiffs to take the vaccination is against Texas law, and it seeks a temporary restraining order to prevent the hospital from firing staff.
Last month, the lawsuit’s attorney, Jared Woodfill, claimed ABC News that Houston Methodist is pressuring staff to receive the injection in order to enhance the hospital’s earnings.
“Defendants advertise to the public that they “demand all workers and employed physicians to acquire a COVID-19 vaccination” in order to promote their business and boost profits at the cost of other health care professionals and their workers’ health. Defendants’ workers are being compelled to act as human “guinea pigs” in order to boost Defendants’ earnings “According to Woodfill. “It is a flagrant and serious breach of the Nuremberg Code and the state of Texas’ public policy.”
Employers can legally require COVID-19 vaccines to re-enter a physical workplace if they follow requirements to find alternative arrangements for employees who are unable to get vaccinated due to medical reasons or religious beliefs, according to new guidance issued last month by the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, a federal government agency that protects workers from discrimination.
According to the guidelines, some of these adjustments may include enabling an unvaccinated employee to wear a face mask and maintain social distance while at work, working a modified shift, receiving frequent COVID-19 testing, being allowed to telework, or accepting a transfer.