Houston Methodist not mandating updated booster for workers

Currently, Houston Methodist is not requiring employees to receive new COVID-19 vaccines targeting omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.

The health system, which has about 30,000 employees, notified staff of the decision in an email from Robert Phillips, MD, PhD, executive vice president, chief physician executive and specialty physician group CEO.

"We strongly recommend you get the booster to keep our patients, you and your family even safer from COVID-19," Dr. Phillips wrote in the email, which was shared with Becker's Sept. 20. "At this time, Houston Methodist will not mandate the new booster. We will continue to follow the scientific data, the level of infections in the community and the availability of vaccines and may mandate the new booster in the future if necessary."

Houston Methodist initially rolled out its mandatory vaccination policy March 31, 2021, and was the first health system in the U.S. to do so. Nearly all the system's employees got vaccinated, but 153 of them either resigned during a two-week suspension period or were terminated June 22, 2021, for not complying with the system's mandate.

This year, in August, the FDA and CDC approved Pfizer and Moderna's applications for emergency use authorization for new bivalent COVID-19 boosters.

And Dr. Phillips told Houston Methodist employees the new vaccines will also be important in fighting the virus.

"Previous COVID-19 vaccines were very successful in preventing infection and keeping you from a severe case of COVID-19," he wrote. "Even now, an original vaccine series with up-to-date boosters is highly effective in preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death. Vaccines have saved hundreds of thousands of lives in the United States and have had very few documented side effects. The fall shot will be one of the most important COVID-19 vaccines offered to Americans since the initial doses."

Houston Methodist said the new booster vaccines will be available to employees. More information is available here.

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