HealthcareLocal NewsHouston Hospital Nurses Stage Walkout Over Vaccine Mandate

Medical workers have filed a lawsuit against Houston Methodist over mandated participation in COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment, and staged a walkout and protest.
June 8, 2021
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After refusing to comply with a deadline for receiving a COVID-19 vaccination, medical workers with Houston Methodist left their posts Monday evening and joined protestors for a rally outside the hospital’s Baytown location.

“No one should be forced to put something into their body if they’re not comfortable with it,” said Jennifer Bridges, a nurse who has worked for Houston Methodist for over 6 years.

Bridges is one of 117 employees suing after the hospital made the experimental COVID-19 vaccination a condition of employment. 

In April, Houston Methodist president and CEO Dr. Marc Boom informed employees by email that they must receive at least the first dose of the emergency authorized vaccine by June 7 or they would face termination.

Hospital management later specified that employees not vaccinated by the deadline would be placed on a fourteen-day suspension without pay and then terminated. Workers were told they could apply for an exemption for pregnancy or “religious” exceptions.

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Houston Nurses Protest Vaccine Mandate (Holly Hansen)

Bridges says she was presented with documentation of her suspension Monday afternoon and told to leave the property. Afterward a group of nearly 150 people, including suspended employees and supporters, gathered on Baker Street next to the hospital for a protest. 

Many in attendance carried signs defending individual rights and alleging the Houston Methodist vaccine mandate constituted a violation of the Nuremberg Code: a post-World War II statement of medical research ethics that emphasizes voluntary consent to clinical trials, the principles of which have been incorporated into U.S. law code.

The protestors were joined by Dr. Angelina Farella, a pediatrician and member of America’s Frontline Doctors, who has been a vocal opponent of mandating the COVID-19 experimental vaccines.

In comments to The Texan, Farella explained that she is not anti-vaccination and has administered tens of thousands of other vaccines, but she will not administer any of the COVID-19 vaccinations to her young patients. She also does not recommend the experimental vaccine for most adults.

“If you are a healthy American under the age of 50 there is no reason for you to get this vaccine,” said Farella. She added that the vaccine might be dangerous for those who have already recovered from the disease.

Farella asserted that Houston Methodist and other vaccine promoters were downplaying data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting Systems (VAERS) indicating that there have been serious side effects and a statistically significant number of deaths in vaccine recipients. She said early data indicates those side effects are particularly dangerous for those who have already had the disease.

The employee lawsuit, filed by attorney Jared Woodfill, leads with a quote from Houston Methodist San Jacinto Hospital CEO David Bernard.

“100% vaccination is more important than your individual freedom. Every one of you is replaceable.”

Originally filed in a Montgomery County district court, the case was last week moved to federal court. 

“We will fight this all the way to the Supreme Court,” Bridges said Monday. “This is wrongful termination and a violation of our rights.”

Woodfill explains that the lawsuit is a “case of first impressions,” meaning that there is little legal precedent for the issues at stake.

Bridges and other objectors point out that the four COVID-19 vaccines are under “emergency use authorization” (EUA) and have not yet been fully approved by the FDA. Fully approved treatments must undergo at least two years of clinical trials to assess side effects, but the new vaccines have only been in use since December of 2020. Last year the CDC clarified that EUA vaccines were not permitted to be mandatory.

Woodfill says, “The legal question that has not been answered is ‘Can you make participation in a clinical trial a condition of employment?’” 

On Monday afternoon, Governor Abbott signed Texas Senate Bill (SB) 968, which prohibits businesses from requiring vaccine passports from customers. Earlier this year Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting state agencies, political subdivisions, or any organizations receiving state public funds from requiring consumers to provide documentation of vaccine status. 

“The state’s vaccine passport ban will have huge implications for these cases in the district courts,” explained Woodfill, who said the cases will proceed in both federal and state courts.

Woodfill says that in addition to the 117 plaintiffs, another 50 individuals have indicated interest in joining the lawsuit. 

U.S. Federal Court Judge Lynn Hughes has requested filings from both parties this week and plans to make a quick decision. Once Hughes has issued a ruling, Woodfill expects there to be an emergency appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“This issue, in either this case or another, should end up before the Supreme Court,” said Woodfill, who says it is possible the nation’s highest court could take up a similar case before the end of the year.

Objectors to the experimental vaccines are hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will address the issue promptly.

“This is not how medicine was ever,” said Farella. “Forcing people to get a vaccine, in some cases in which they are already immune since they’ve had the disease, is medical tyranny.”

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Holly Hansen

Holly Hansen is a freelance writer living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.