Houston Methodist nurses protest COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Houston Methodist nurses were among a group of roughly 50 to 75 people who protested the health system's COVID-19 vaccine requirement for employees over the weekend, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The protest was May 22, with people holding signs stating, "I call the shot, not you!" and "Say no to vaccine mandate," the newspaper reported.

Houston Methodist rolled out its mandatory vaccination policy March 31, with April 15 as the deadline for managers to receive at least one dose or get an exemption. More than 99 percent of the management team had complied by the deadline. By June 7, all about 26,000 employees are required to have received the vaccine.

Jennifer Bridges, a registered nurse at the hospital, who was at the event, reiterated what she said in April — that she doesn't want the COVID-19 vaccine, even if it means losing her job. She accused Houston Methodist of "bullying" unvaccinated workers and that she plans to file a lawsuit over the health system's vaccine mandate, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The newspaper reported that other nurses protesting expressed concerns about the newness of the COVID-19 vaccines, which are authorized for emergency use by the FDA but have not been fully approved.

"I'm not an anti-vaxxer," Freenea Stewart, a charge nurse in the surgical department told the newspaper. "The only thing that I'm asking is that ([he shot] goes through all the FDA approvals like all the other vaccines."

Amy Rose, a spokesperson for Houston Methodist, told Becker's May 24 that the health system respects the rights of those who protested.

"However, Houston Methodist is adamant that we do everything in our power to protect our patients. Our decision to mandate the COVID vaccine for all of our employees was not made lightly and is based on the proven science that the vaccines are not only safe, but extremely effective. As healthcare workers, we've taken a sacred oath to do everything possible to keep our patients safe and healthy. Our efforts are leading the way in showing what must be done to protect our patients, ourselves, our families and our communities," said Ms. Rose.

The June 7 employee deadline for being vaccinated remains, she said.

In addition to Houston Methodist, Philadelphia's six-hospital University of Pennsylvania Health System revealed May 19 that it will make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for all employees and clinical staff. West Orange, N.J.-based RWJBarnabas Health said May 20 it is requiring supervisors and above to be vaccinated for COVID-19, with plans to eventually extend the mandate to all employees. And Great Falls, Mont.-based Benefis Health System said it made the vaccine mandatory for about 250 employees working in senior services. Employees who are not exempt are required to get their second doses by July 1.

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