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Texas hospital system suspends workers who won't get the COVID-19 vaccine

A Texas hospital system is suspending without pay 178 full-time and part-time employees who are refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19, saying the vaccination requirement is necessary and puts patients first.

Houston Methodist, which operates a medical center and six community hospitals, set a Monday deadline for all workers to be fully vaccinated. Nearly 25,000 employees are inoculated, 285 received a medical or religious exemption, and 332 others got deferrals.

In an email sent Tuesday, Houston Methodist CEO Dr. Marc Boom said 27 of the suspended workers have received one dose of the vaccine, and he is "hopeful they will get their second doses soon." He did not apologize for the vaccination mandate, which was announced in April, saying, "The science proves that the vaccines are not only safe, but necessary if we are going to turn the corner against COVID-19."

Houston Methodist offered an incentive in March, giving vaccinated workers a $500 bonus, and made it clear that eventually, all employees would need to be fully vaccinated. If the suspended workers don't get vaccinated by June 21, they will be terminated, CBS MoneyWatch reports. 

A conservative activist lawyer is representing some of the workers, claiming in court documents that Houston Methodist is forcing them into being human "guinea pigs." The hospital system argues it is well within its legal rights to mandate vaccines, noting that since 2009, they have made flu vaccines mandatory for all workers.