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Houston hospital system sued by 117 employees for requiring them to receive vaccines

More than 100 employees at Houston Methodist have sued the hospital for making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory in the workplace.

The company put out a new policy last month, requiring all of its 26,000 workers to get both shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or the one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines, by June 7 or risk termination. 

Houston Methodist says 99 percent of its employees are fully vaccinated – but a small group refuse to do so.  

A total of 117 have joined the lawsuit, claiming the hospital is ‘is forcing its employees to be human “guinea pigs” as a condition for continued employment,’ reported KHOU 11.

They also claim coronavirus vaccine are ‘experimental,’ because they have only received emergency use authorization and not full U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.

The federal government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in December 2020 that employers could legally set vaccine requirements for their workforce. 

Jennifer Bridges (pictured) is among 117 employees suing a Houston hospital after it made coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for all of its 26,000 employees

Houston Methodist hospital became the first major hospital system in the country to require all of its employees to be vaccinated for Covid-19 last month by June 7 or risk termination

Houston Methodist hospital became the first major hospital system in the country to require all of its employees to be vaccinated for Covid-19 last month by June 7 or risk termination 

The hospital system became the first in the U.S. to set a coronavirus vaccine requirement last month. 

‘As health care workers we must do everything possible to keep our patients safe and at the center of everything we do,’ said Dr Marc Bloom, CEO of Houston Methodist hospital system, in an email to employees.

‘By choosing to be vaccinated, you are leaders – showing our colleagues in health care what must be done to protect our patients, ourselves, our families and our communities.’

The hospital system first made its administrative staff and new hires get vaccinated by mid-April before extending the deadline to early June.

Two employees chose to leave the hospital system instead of getting vaccinated at the time. 

The system also offered employees $500 if they got vaccinated early on in the rollout of the shots. 

Employees who have a religious or health exemption to receiving the vaccine had until May 3 to apply for a waiver. 

The group of 117 workers who are suing is led by Jennifer Bridges, a nurse who garnered international attention last month for speaking out against the hospitals requirements. 

‘People trying to force you to put something into your body that you’re not comfortable with, in order to keep your job, is just insane,’ she told KHOU last month as to why she is rejecting the vaccine. 

‘I’m not an anti-vax person. If you want to get it, by all means, get it. I don’t take that away from anybody Just let everybody have a choice and the right to make their own decision.’

Bloom released a statement on Friday, responding to his employees that are refusing to take the vaccine. 

Marc Bloom (pictured), CEO of the hospital system, released a statement on Friday saying he stands by the decision to make employees get vaccinated

Marc Bloom (pictured), CEO of the hospital system, released a statement on Friday saying he stands by the decision to make employees get vaccinated

‘It is unfortunate that the few remaining employees who refuse to get vaccinated and put our patients first are responding in this way,’ he said.

‘It is legal for health care institutions to mandate vaccines, as we have done with the flu vaccine since 2009.

‘The COVID-19 vaccines have proven through rigorous trials to be very safe and very effective and are not experimental.

‘More than 165 million people in the U.S. alone have received vaccines against COVID-19, and this has resulted in the lowest numbers of infections in our country and in the Houston region in more than a year.’  

Bridges and the group of employees is being represented by Jared Woodfill from the Houston-based Woodfill Law Firm.

Woodfill told KHOU that his firm has filed a declaration action, requesting the courts to declare the hospitals orders illegal. 

They have also filed for an injunction to prevent the employees from being terminated on the June 7 deadline while legal proceedings are ongoing. 

Woodfill is arguing that the vaccine is an experimental product, and that it should not be legal to force employees to receive it. 

‘[The vaccine] that’s been on the market for less than a year. And yes, it’s being used under EUA, but at the same time, that is experimental by definition,’ he said.

‘You can’t fire someone for refusing to do something illegal, and if you look at federal law, it makes it very clear that it’s illegal to force someone to participate in a vaccine trial.’

The three available vaccines in the U.S. have all received emergency use authorization from the FDA. Bridges says she is waiting for the vaccines to receive full approval before she receives it

The three available vaccines in the U.S. have all received emergency use authorization from the FDA. Bridges says she is waiting for the vaccines to receive full approval before she receives it

Currently, all three of the available COVID-19 vaccines in the United States have given emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and are pending further trials to receive full approval. 

The vaccines will be allowed for use as long as the country remains in a state or emergency related to COVID-19, which will be until March 2022 under the current schedule. 

Vaccine suppliers must submit six months worth of clinical data to the FDA for full approval, and the application to receive full approval often takes six months to review. 

Currently, only Pfizer has applied for full approval. 

Bridges told reporters that she is waiting for the vaccine to receive full approval from the FDA before she receives it.  

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk