Why 1 Houston Methodist nurse is refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, even though it means losing her job

Jennifer Bridges, RN, a nurse at Houston Methodist Hospital, doesn't want the COVID-19 vaccine, which is now required to keep her job, and has started a Change.org petition to garner support against the policy, reports CBS affiliate KHOU. 

On March 31, Houston Methodist implemented a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy for staff, giving current employees until June 7 to get the shot. As of April 23, 89 percent of employees have been vaccinated, according to an email sent to staff from Houston Methodist President and CEO, Marc Boom, MD, and shared with Becker's.

The hospital is the first in the U.S. to require staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Of 26,000 employees, Dr. Boom said about 3,000 employees still need the vaccine, reports KHOU.

"I think our rights as human beings are more important than keeping that job," Ms. Bridges told KHOU. Nearly 5,000 people have signed Ms. Bridges' online petition titled "Covid Vaccine should not be Mandatory or Termination!!" 

All Houston Methodist employees have had to get a flu vaccine each year for the last 10 years. Dr. Boom told KHOU the hospital is allowing the same exemptions that it does for the flu shot, along with an additional deferral for pregnant women.  

Ms. Bridges has worked at Houston Methodist for more than six years, and told KHOU she understands the need for safety and infection control measures. Ms. Bridges said she just wants more time for the FDA to study the three vaccines and that she wants a vaccine that's fully approved by the government.  

"In the meantime, we'll wear N-95s, face shields," the nurse said. "We'll do what the CDC says is perfectly safe. Just let us be comfortable because once you inject it you can't take it back out."

When asked what patients thought about the vaccine requirement, Dr. Boom told KHOU, "Mostly what I've heard from patients is 'thank you,' for the hospital prioritizing a patient's health and care." 

Dr. Boom wrote in an April 23 email to staff: "I want to reemphasize the reason we are making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory. It is rather simple — as healthcare workers we must do everything possible to keep our patients safe and at the center of everything we do. Mandating the vaccine was not a decision we made lightly, but science has proven that the COVID-19 vaccines are very safe and very effective. Like I say to everyone who asks — whether they are reporters, the public, patients or our employees — it is our sacred obligation to do everything possible to keep our patients safe. By choosing to be vaccinated, you are leaders, showing our colleagues in healthcare what must be done to protect our patients, ourselves, our families and our communities."

Dr. Boom cited the policy's success among leadership, saying only two leaders of about 1,200 have decided to leave the organization, and adding, "We are sorry that they made that choice, but by doing so, they are putting themselves before the safety of our patients, which is not consistent with our culture." 

"We're never going to make anybody take the vaccine," Dr. Boom told KHOU. "But at the end of the day, if they choose not to take the vaccine, there are many other places they can work."


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