More than 150 employees at a Houston hospital system have been fired or resigned after the medical system implemented a mandate requiring a COVID-19 vaccine and a judge dismissed an employee lawsuit over it.
The hospital system had previously required employees to complete their immunization by June 7. 178 employees were suspended for two weeks without pay for not complying.
And after the suspension period ended Tuesday, 153 employees either resigned or were terminated for not completing their inoculations, a spokesperson for Houston Methodist Hospital system told the Associated Press.
A federal judge threw out the lawsuit last week that had been filed by 117 employees over the requirement. They have appealed the lawsuit.
Hospital workers across the nation risked their lives during the pandemic, and many died of the virus, but a recent USA TODAY survey of some of the largest hospital networks and public hospitals in the country revealed that hospital worker vaccination rates vary widely.
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The Houston Methodist controversy "foreshadows the coming months," said Ogbonnaya Omenka, an associate professor and public health specialist at Butler University in Indianapolis.
Mandates that may seem like the obvious choice to many people must be "implemented within a human context," he told USA TODAY earlier this month.
U.S. News & World Report ranks Houston Methodist the best hospital in Texas and Newsweek listed it as the 18th best in the country. 85% of employees were inoculated by April.
In recent days after the lawsuit was dismissed, other prominent hospitals followed Houston Methodist's lead with vaccine mandates: Indiana University Health, Johns Hopkins, New York Presbyterian, the University of Pennsylvania and most hospitals in the Washington, D.C., area have said they will institute requirements for the shot.
The Biden administration said Tuesday that it won't reach its "aspirational" goal of getting 70% of adult Americans at least partially vaccinated for COVID-19 by the Fourth of July, though 16 states and the District of Columbia have reached the goal.
Across all age groups, vaccination rates were lower among men, young people, those who live in rural counties and those who had higher social vulnerabilities, a Centers of Disease Control and Prevention study says. More than 45% of Americans are fully vaccinated.
Contributing: John Bacon, USA TODAY; The Associated Press