More than 100 workers at a hospital in Texas have filed a lawsuit over their employer’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement, which they say forces them to become “human ‘guinea pigs’ as a condition for continued employment.”
The 117 workers at Houston Methodist Hospital, less than 0.5% of the staff, claim in a lawsuit filed Friday that the hospital’s vaccine mandate forces them “to subject themselves to medical experimentation as a prerequisite to feeding their families.”
The suit, which erroneously refers to the vaccine as “a gene modification medical experiment,” targets the vaccine’s emergency use status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, arguing that this hastened authorization may carry unknown risks. The suit also says the mandate violates the Nuremberg Code of 1947. This code for ethical medical practice was enacted to prevent human experimentation without consent following the atrocities committed by the Nazis during World War II.
The hospital’s president and CEO, Marc Boom, dismissed the suit’s legitimacy in a statement, arguing that the coronavirus vaccines used in the U.S. have been proved to be safe and that health care institutions are legally allowed to mandate vaccinations. Thus far, 99% of the hospital’s 26,000 employees have met the vaccination requirement, he said.
“As health care workers, it is our sacred obligation to do whatever we can to protect our patients, who are the most vulnerable in our community,” he said in a statement obtained by HuffPost on Sunday. “The COVID-19 vaccines have proven through rigorous trials to be very safe and very effective and are not experimental. More than 165 million people in the U.S. alone have received vaccines against COVID-19, and this has resulted in the lowest numbers of infections in our country and in the Houston region in more than a year.”
Vaccines that have received emergency use authorization have completed clinical trials that demonstrate the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. Because they have undergone such clinical research and authorization, they are not considered experimental.
Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University, called the lawsuit’s “experimental” characterization of the vaccine “absurd” in an email to The Washington Post.
“There were tens of thousands of people who were in the Phase 3 clinical trials for the mRNA vaccines, and no safety concerns were found,” she said. “After the emergency use authorization of these vaccines, there have since been hundreds of millions of people being vaccinated with the mRNA vaccines with excellent safety record.”
As of Saturday, nearly 294 million coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered in the U.S., with just over 50% of the nation’s population having received at least one dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency established to administer and enforce laws against workplace discrimination, issued updated guidance on Friday that defends employers’ legal right to require COVID-19 vaccines among employees in a physical workplace.
This requirement is legal so long as employers provide reasonable accommodation. Those who do not get vaccinated because of a disability or a religious belief, practice or observation may be entitled to an exception to a workplace vaccine requirement in exchange for wearing a mask, social distancing, changing schedules or reassignment, the EEOC’s website states.
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