The deadline for Houston Methodist's vaccine mandate was June 7. How did it go?

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Houston Methodist employees had a deadline of June 7 at midnight to get the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the health system's mandate. The count as of June 8: Nearly 100 percent compliance with 24,947 workers being fully vaccinated.

"I want to personally thank you and update you on where we stand now," Houston Methodist President and CEO Marc Boom, MD, wrote in a statement to employees. "We had only 178 full-time or part-time employees who did not get fully vaccinated or were not granted an exemption or deferral. Of these employees, 27 have received one dose of vaccine, so I am hopeful they will get their second doses soon. Of our employees, 285 received a medical or religious exemption, and 332 were granted deferrals for pregnancy and other reasons." 

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 that deadline. By June 7, all 26,000 employees were required to comply. Those who are not in compliance will receive a two-week suspension. Houston Methodist said if workers do not comply by June 21, it would "initiate the employee termination process," according to The New York Times.

Houston Methodist, which comprises an academic medical center and six community hospitals, was the first large, integrated health system to implement a vaccination mandate for employees.

Its mandate has sparked pushback from some. In May, a group of 117 employees filed a lawsuit against Houston Methodist over the issue, citing that the COVID-19 vaccines are authorized for emergency use by the FDA but have not been fully approved. Dozens of staff members also protested the policy the night of June 7 outside the health system's location in Baytown, Texas, according to the Times.

"If we don't stop this now and do some kind of change, everybody's just going to topple," Jennifer Bridges, RN, told local news station ABC13 at the protest. "It's going to create a domino effect. Everybody across the nation is going to be forced to get things into their body that they don't want and that's not right."

Houston Methodist said June 7: "Unfortunately, a few employees have not met the vaccine requirements and are inviting other employees to join them as they end their shifts today. We fully support the right of our employees to peacefully gather on their own time, but it is unacceptable to even suggest they abandon their patients to participate in this activity. We have faith that our employees will continue putting our patients first. It is unfortunate that today's milestone of Houston Methodist becoming the safest hospital system in the country is being overshadowed by a few disgruntled employees."

In addition to Houston Methodist, Indianapolis-based Indiana University Health; Philadelphia-based University of Pennsylvania Health System; West Orange, N.J.-based RWJBarnabas Health; Great Falls, Mont.-based Benefis Health System; and University of Louisville (Ky.) Health have announced vaccination mandates.

This story was updated at 7:17 p.m. CST June 8.

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