Four out of five Houston Methodist employees are vaccinated against COVID-19. The sliver who are not will be suspended or fired if they refuse the shot, according to company policy.
The hospital required managers to be vaccinated by April 15 and all other employees — about 26,000 workers in total — by June 7, said Stefanie Asin, a Houston Methodist spokesperson.
With 84 percent of the staff vaccinated, the hospital is close to herd immunity, CEO Marc Boom wrote in a letter to employees this month.
“As health care workers we’ve taken a sacred oath to do everything possible to keep our patients safe and healthy — this includes getting vaccinated,” Boom wrote.
A little more than 4,100 employees have not received at least a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The hospital does not know yet how many employees potentially will be suspended or terminated because of the mandatory vaccination policy.
Since 2009, a hospital policy has mandated its workers receive the flu vaccine each year, unless they have a medical or religious objection qualifying them for exemption.
Several nursing homes in Houston are requiring COVID-19 vaccinations of their workers, while other hospitals in the Texas Medical Center have not yet followed suit.
“UTMB is not mandating vaccination,” said Christopher Smith Gonzalez, senior communication specialist for the hospital. “But, in view of the high contagiousness of the some of the SARS-CoV-2 variants, UTMB has implemented enhanced respiratory precautions for all unvaccinated individuals caring for or evaluating patients for COVID.”
While 80 percent of Texas Children’s Hospital employees are vaccinated against COVID-19, the hospital does not require inoculation. St. Luke’s Health has vaccinated “thousands of our staff,” vaccinations are not mandatory, according to the health system.
But some are considering it to cut back on health hazards for employees and patients.
“As a provider of health care services, Baylor College of Medicine currently requires vaccination for employees for a variety of infectious diseases,” said Dr. James McDeavitt, senior vice president of Baylor College of Medicine. “For example, flu vaccination for employees has been mandatory for several years. With appropriately defined exemptions (medical contraindications, religious beliefs), we support mandatory vaccination for COVID-19. We do not yet have this requirement in place, but it is under active consideration.”
Memorial Hermann will make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory after it relaxes some of its COVID-19 protocols, such as mask-wearing and social distancing. However, it has not set a deadline for employees to receive the vaccine, said Drew Munhausen, a Memorial Hermann spokesperson.
This all makes sense to me. They’re health care workers, which not only makes them at high risk for catching COVID, it means they’re in very close contact with a lot of extremely vulnerable people as well. The story notes a recent incident in a Kentucky nursing home, where an unvaxxed worker was the cause of an outbreak. While most of the residents, who had been vaccinated, had only mild symptoms, one of them died. None of that should have happened. State law requires that health care facilities have a policy about vaccinations, but doesn’t require that they mandate them; federal law allows employers to require vaccinations, but also doesn’t mandate it. I for sure would want to know that the doctor or nurse or physician’s assistant who is giving me medical assistance, as well as all of the support staff, have been vaccinated for COVID. I understand that some of the employees may be hesitant about the vaccine, and I have some sympathy for them, but only so much.
There is also this:
Houston Methodist was one of several companies to offer incentives for its workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The hospital is granting $500 bonuses to anyone who worked during the pandemic and received the vaccine.
“Already we’re seeing positive results as the number of employee infections has dropped inversely with the number of employees receiving the vaccine,” Boom wrote.
Paying people to get vaxxed has its merits. One of the hesitant Methodist employees from the story says that some of her fellow hesitators are thinking about getting the shots to keep their jobs. Clearly, incentives work. Maybe that’s a lesson for us for the broader issue.