A group of 117 employees of Houston Methodist Hospital sued the provider over its decision to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine.
In the complaint, employees alleged that "Methodist Hospital is forcing its employees to be human 'guinea pigs' as a condition for continued employment" and is violating the Nuremberg Code, which prohibits human experimentation without consent.
Earlier this year, Houston Methodist required all managers to either get the first dose of a vaccine or get an approved medical or religious exemption by April 15. All other employees have until June 7 to be vaccinated or risk losing their jobs, unless they have a medical or religious exemption.
The complaint which was filed in the District Court of Montgomery County in Texas, alleges that employers can't mandate vaccines that haven't yet received FDA approval, calling the vaccines "experimental." The COVID-19 vaccines only have received emergency use authorization.
On Friday, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated its COVID-19 guidance to clarify that an employer can require employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 to enter a physical workplace, as long as accommodations are made for those who can't get vaccinated for medical or religious reasons.
In response to the lawsuit, Houston Methodist CEO Dr. Marc Boom said 99% of the hospital's 26,000 employees already have been vaccinated.
"It is unfortunate that the few remaining employees who refuse to get vaccinated and put our patients first are responding in this way. It is legal for healthcare institutions to mandate vaccines, as we have done with the flu vaccine since 2009. The COVID-19 vaccines have proven through rigorous trials to be very safe and very effective and are not experimental," Boom said.
Houston Methodist is one of a small number of healthcare providers that are mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for workers. In mid-May, the University of Pennsylvania Health System announced that all employees and clinical staff would be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 1. Starting July 1, Penn Medicine also will require all new hires to be vaccinated before starting work.