Over 150 Texas Hospital Workers Are Fired or Resign Over Covid Vaccine Mandate

More than 150 staff members at a Houston-area hospital were fired or resigned on Tuesday for not following a policy that requires employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

The hospital, Houston Methodist, had told employees that they had to be vaccinated by June 7 or face suspension for two weeks. Of the nearly 200 employees who had been suspended, 153 of them were terminated by the hospital on Tuesday or had resigned, according to Gale Smith, a spokeswoman for the hospital.

Ms. Smith said employees who had complied with the vaccine policy during the suspension period were allowed to return to work a day after they became compliant.

The hospital did not specify how many workers had complied and returned to work.

Vaccine hesitancy has been high among frontline health care workers: Surveys showed that nearly half remained unvaccinated as of mid-March, despite being among the first to become eligible for the shots in December. A March 2021 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that health care workers had concerns about the vaccines’ newness and their possible side effects, both of which are common reasons for waiting to be vaccinated.

Arthur Caplan, a professor of medical ethics at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine, said the vaccine requirement was no different than other mandates for health care workers, like getting an annual flu shot, keeping up with immunizations and wearing hairnets.

He noted that some health care workers have been fired in the past for refusing to get flu shots and said that states like New York require it.

“Health care workers have three special ethical responsibilities,” Dr. Caplan said. “One is protect the vulnerable, people who are really at risk of a disease. Secondly, put patient interests for first. It doesn’t say, ‘put your choice first.’ Third, they’re supposed to do no harm.”

Dr. Caplan also condemned a comparison by the lead plaintiff in the Houston case, Ms. Bridges, between hospital workers and Nazi concentration camp prisoners.

He suggested that the hospital employees who refused to get vaccinated would be better off in a different line of work.

“It’s like you’re in the wrong job there, buddy,” he said.

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