Hospital workers in Texas
who refused to receive a COVID-19 vaccine
as part of company policy face termination after a deadline passed this week, prompting some workers to gather in protest
On Monday, dozens of people
carrying signs and waving American flags gathered outside Houston Methodist Hospital
, some in support of the workers and others joining after their final hospital shift ended.
“I cried the whole way out,” said nurse Jennifer Bridges, one of 117 health care
workers who recently filed a lawsuit
against the hospital over its vaccine requirement.
Several dozen people are waiting for Baytown Methodist employees to walk out after they refused to take the vaccine shot as required by company policy. Jennifer Bridges, a registered nurse here, was the first to speak out, and now 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 were given until Monday to get the vaccine, or they would be suspended for two weeks without pay beginning on Tuesday. Those employees now have until June 21 to get vaccinated or they will be terminated, according to a policy statement issued by the hospital in April
Employees can request exemptions from vaccination for medical reasons, including pregnancy, and “sincerely held religious beliefs,” according to the hospital, but any approved exemption is only valid for the year it is granted.
The hospital's president
, Marc Boom, said in a statement to Stardia last month that by the end of May, 99% of the hospital's staff had met the vaccination requirement.
On Monday, the hospital expressed its displeasure with those who refused to comply with the mandate, but claimed that they were a small minority.
“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 to KHOU.
The hospital has argued that health care institutions are legally permitted to require vaccinations
of their employees, and that the vaccines
currently available in the United States
Skeptical employees responded in a lawsuit filed late last month against the hospital, accusing it of forcing them to become "human guinea pigs" as a condition of continued employment.
The lawsuit appeared to be primarily concerned with the vaccines being approved for emergency use by the United States Food
and Drug Administration, claiming incorrectly that this meant the vaccines were experimental and thus potentially dangerous.
Vaccines with emergency use authorization have completed clinical trials that demonstrate the vaccine's safety and efficacy, and they are not considered experimental because of this clinical research
Last month, Pfizer
submitted an application to the FDA for full approval of its coronavirus vaccine
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(EEOC), a federal agency charged with enforcing anti-discrimination laws, issued updated guidance late last month defending employers' legal right to require COVID-19 vaccines among employees in a physical workplace
Those who do not get vaccinated due to 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, according to the EEOC website.