- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 1, 2021

More than 100 employees are suing Houston Methodist Hospital over its requirement that all of its employees get the COVID-19 vaccine by June 7.

The lawsuit claims it’s illegal to force people to get a vaccine when the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t officially approved it yet, saying employees are being used as “guinea pigs.”

The FDA has cleared three COVID-19 vaccinations developed by Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson for emergency use.

Jennifer Bridges, a nurse who has worked at the Texas hospital for six years, is the lead plaintiff in the case. She said she wants more time for the FDA to gather more research on the vaccine before she gets it.

“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,” Ms. Bridges told KHOU-11, Houston’s CBS News affiliate.

Lawyers representing the employees have asked the court to rule the policy illegal and also halt any firings for refusing to comply.

“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,” Jared Woodfill, a Houston attorney representing the employees, told KHOU.

Mr. Woodfill did not immediately return a request for comment from The Washington Times.

Houston Methodist is the first hospital system in the United States to mandate that employees be vaccinated with a COVID-19 shot, according to The Hill.

About 99% of the hospital’s employees have complied with the vaccine mandate.

Dr. Marc Boom, the hospital’s CEO, said in a recent statement that it is legal for health care facilities to require vaccines and that they have done so 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,” Dr. Boom said. “As health care workers, it is our sacred obligation to do whatever we can to protect our patients, who are the most vulnerable in our community. It is our duty and our privilege.”

During his announcement in April, Dr. Bloom said that mandating a COVID-19 vaccine wasn’t a decision “made lightly.”

“The process was reminiscent of how we made the decision to become one of the first in the country to mandate the flu vaccine in 2009. Because science has proven that the COVID-19 vaccines are not only safe, but extremely effective, it became an easier decision to make,” he said. 

Last month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said employers can require employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine before returning to the workplace.

An Arizona State University and Rockefeller Foundation survey published in April found 60% of employers in the U.S. and the U.K. plan to require proof of vaccination.

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