- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 13, 2021

More than 100 employees who sued Houston Methodist Hospital challenging the requirement that all of its employees get the COVID-19 vaccine will appeal a judge’s dismissal of their case.

A federal judge on Saturday dismissed the suit.

But Jared Woodfill, the attorney for the employees, told The Washington Times on Monday that he will appeal the ruling by U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes, saying that the lawsuit is one battle in a larger war to protect employees’ rights.

“Employment should not be conditioned upon whether you will agree to serve as a human guinea pig. We will be appealing this case to the U.S. Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court if necessary,” Mr. Woodfill said.

“All of my clients continue to be committed to fighting this unjust policy,” he said. “If this ruling is allowed to stand, employers across the country will be able to force their employees to participate in a vaccine trial as a condition for employment. This legal battle has only just begun.”

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

Three COVID-19 vaccinations developed by Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson have been cleared for emergency use and have not received full authorization from the FDA.

Judge Hughes, a Reagan appointee, disagreed with the argument that the vaccines are experimental.

“This claim is false and it is also irrelevant,” he wrote.

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

The lawsuit had asked the court to rule the hospital’s policy illegal and also halt any firings for refusing to comply.

Houston Methodist Hospital is the first hospital system in the U.S. to mandate employees be vaccinated with the COVID-19 shot, according to The Hill. 

About 99% of the hospital’s employees have complied with the 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,” he 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.”

After the dismissal of the case, Dr. Bloom said the hospital plans to put the lawsuit behind it and focus on safety and innovation.

“All our employees have now met the requirements of the vaccine policy and I couldn’t be prouder of them. Our employees and physicians made their decisions for our patients, who are always at the center of everything we do. They have fulfilled their sacred obligation as health care workers, and we couldn’t ask for a more dedicated, caring and talented team,” 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 United Kingdom plan to require proof of vaccination.

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