June 21st is fast approaching, and to most of us, that means the official start of summer.  But to a group of 178 healthcare workers in Houston, it could mean the end of their employment.

We’ve been discussing the various mandates and situations concerning getting the COVID-19 vaccine.  The more public of these scenarios include colleges and universities that place requirements for the students before returning in the fall. The message is clear, if you want to be let in, you’re going to have to get the vaccine.

But a more immediate situation is that of Houston Methodist hospital, which requires its employees to be vaccinated by the 21st of June or face losing their jobs.  While the requirement was for all hospital employees, this group of 178 individuals has so far refused to get vaccinated, based on their concern that it is unsafe and “experimental”.

While opinions will vary on whether or not an individual wants to be vaccinated and whether or not it is safe, it has not been as publicly challenged by healthcare workers who are “in the thick of it” and are often regarded as the standard to which the general public takes a cue from when it comes to healthcare decisions.

Their concerns are based on the lack of FDA approval of the vaccine and any long-term data on the recipients’ effects.  The counterargument is that the risks of COVID-19 are worse than any negligible side effects or symptoms that arise from receiving the vaccine, and that hundreds of millions of vaccine doses have been safely administered.

As with most arguments, we can see three sides to the story – each opposing party’s side, with some truth lying in the middle.  There isn’t a clear answer here, and we will watch as this plays out.

In the meantime, 117 employees have filed a lawsuit against Houston Medical.  This includes some of the 27 workers who have received one, but not two, of the required vaccination doses.  It should be noted that 600 employees did get exemptions or deferrals and the 178 employees refusing only account for a small fraction of the approximate 26,000 individuals who are employed by this healthcare company.

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