A Houston, Texas, hospital has reportedly suspended — without pay — at least 178 of its employees who were said to have refused COVID-19 vaccinations, NBC News reported.
What are the details?
Houston Methodist Hospital suspended the employees for violating its policy that all employees be fully vaccinated by Monday against coronavirus.
The hospital announced in April that all employees would need to be fully vaccinated by June 7 in order to continue working for the health care facility.
The outlet reported that nearly 25,000 of the hospital's staffers have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
At least 285 unvaccinated employees reportedly received medical or religious exemption from the vaccine, and 332 more were reportedly granted deferrals for pregnancies and other related conditions. At least 178 employees reportedly have gone unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated.
In a Tuesday statement, Houston Methodist president Dr. Marc Boom said, "We won't have the final numbers for two weeks as employees can still get vaccinated with their second dose or with the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. I wish the number could be zero, but unfortunately, a small number of individuals have decided not to put their patients first."
"The science proves that the vaccines are not only safe, but necessary if we are going to turn the corner against COVID-19," he added. "The mRNA technology behind the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines isn't new or experimental. It's been around for many years."
Suspended employees will have until June 21 to satisfy the hospital's demands before the facility initiates its "employee termination process."
What are people saying about this?
Amanda Rivera, an ER nurse who has refused to get vaccinated, says that she's disappointed that the hospital would put her in this position.
"I feel like they kind of bullied us into this little corner, like you have to do it or you don't have a job," she said. "This is my only source of income."
At least 117 employees filed a lawsuit in May against the hospital arguing that the vaccines are "experimental" in nature and that the hospital should not be permitted to force an employee to receive an unapproved vaccine "on penalty of termination or other sanctions" including suspensions.
"None of the currently available experimental vaccines for COVID-19 has received final approval from the FDA," the lawsuit stated in part.
In a statement, attorney Jared Woodfill — who filed the suit in Montgomery County, Texas — said that he intends to file the suit with state court.
"Essentially, Dr. Boom is requiring my clients to serve as human guinea pigs, and if they're not, they're taken to the door," Woodfill said. "There's no choice. It's all about coercion, all about pressure. ... It's clearly about the bottom line, but not about the people who put their lives on the line. This is how they're repaid, with a pink slip."
According to NBC News, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in May guidance that federal guidelines do not prohibit employers from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations "so long as reasonable accommodations are made under the Americans with Disabilities Act."
The New York Times on Monday reported that the staffers' suspensions followed a protest by dozens of hospital workers on Monday night who were demonstrating against the policy.
Nurse Jennifer Bridges, who helped lead the protest, said that lack of FDA approval is leading front-line workers to pause for concern over the mandatory vaccines.
"If we don't stop this now and do some kind of change, everybody's just going to topple," she said. "It's going to create a domino effect. Everybody across the nation is going to be forced to get things into their body that they don't want and it's not right."
On Monday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed a law prohibiting businesses or state government entities from requiring vaccine passports.
It is not clear at the time of this reporting how or even if the new law will impact Houston Methodist Hospital's guidelines.