A few dozen employees had sued but a federal judge dismissed the suit as frivolous.
The health system Houston Methodist has confirmed that 153 employees have quit or were fired because they did not meet Monday’s deadline to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to keep their jobs.
Houston Methodist spokeswoman Patti Muck told the Houston Chronicle that the 153 people are no longer employed by the health system, although there was no breakdown how many were fired and how many resigned. Earlier this month, the health system reported that 178 of the nearly 25,000 employees had not been vaccinated, so a small number complied with the order to be vaccinated or be out of a job.
A group of 117 employees sued Houston Methodist in late May after it was one of the first large health systems to announce a mandatory vaccination policy in April. However, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, calling it frivolous, which paved the way for the dismissals. Some employees staged protests over the vaccination order and more are planned.
"We can now put this behind us and continue our focus on unparalleled safety, quality, service and innovation," hospital president and CEO Marc Boom said in a statement at the time of the lawsuit’s dismissal. "All our employees have now met the requirements of the vaccine policy and I couldn't be prouder of them."
A guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that employers can require staff to be vaccinated to enter a workplace as long as reasonable accommodations are made for those with religious or health exemptions.
Polling has revealed a divide between physicians and frontline workers over willingness to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. A recent poll by the American Medical Association found 96% of physicians had been vaccinated. However, in March, a Kaiser Health Tracking poll found only 52% of frontline workers said they had been vaccinated, despite availability of the vaccine for that group. Reasons for reluctance to be vaccinated included concern about side effects and the speed with which the vaccines had been developed.
All three vaccines being offered in the United States are under an FDA emergency use authorization, and two have filed for full approval.