Houston hospital suspends 178 unvaccinated employees

HOUSTON -- A Houston hospital has suspended 178 employees for two weeks without pay for not complying with demands that they be vaccinated against COVID-19.

In a Tuesday memo, Houston Methodist Hospital system chief executive Marc Boom said 24,947 employees complied with the vaccination requirement and that 27 of the 178 have received the first of a two-dose vaccine and won't be fired if they get their second. The rest are subject to termination.

The memo says 285 other employees received medical or religious exemptions, and 332 were deferred for pregnancy or other reasons. The hospital system has been sued by 117 unvaccinated employees for requiring vaccinations as a condition of employment. Employees had a June 7 deadline to complete their immunization.

On Monday, one of the nurses suing Houston Methodist led a walkout as she completed her shift. Several employees from different branches and many supporters met at Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital in support of her efforts.

Jennifer Bridges told our sister station KTRK she does not want to take the COVID-19 vaccine because it does not have full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The vaccine is currently being used in the U.S. under emergency use authorization from the FDA. Pfizer began its full application for full approval last month.

The company says they support the rights of employees to peacefully gather, but they can't allow patient care to suffer.

"While we celebrate this remarkable accomplishment, I know that [Wednesday] may be difficult for some who are sad about losing a colleague who's decided to not get vaccinated," read the statement. "We only wish them well and thank them for their past service to our community, and we must respect the decision they made."

ABC Owned TV Stations contributed to this report.
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