Houston Methodist, a hospital system with around 28,000 employees, was the first in the US to require the COVID-19 immunization for all of its staff members. Now, the fully vaccinated hospital is facing staff shortages due to COVID-19 infections.
Due to an increase in infections, the first hospital in the United States to require COVID-19 vaccination for all employees is currently experiencing a staffing crisis.
Due to positive COVID-19 viral tests, hundreds of staff at Houston’s Methodist Hospital are currently out of work. In 2021, 153 employees who declined to get immunized at the same facility left or were fired. The Methodist hierarchy is currently working to prevent a crisis.
“What is worrisome is the climbing number of our employees who cannot work because they are home sick with COVID-19. Almost 400 employees tested positive last week,” Dr. Robert Phillips, Houston Methodist’s executive vice president and chief physician executive, wrote in an internal email on July 12.
“While most of these employees are getting COVID-19 from the community, it is vital that we don’t face a situation where too many employees are out sick and we find ourselves with a staffing shortage,” he added.
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Houston Methodist, a hospital system with around 28,000 employees, was the first in the US to require the COVID-19 immunization for all of its staff members. Additionally, it was the first medical staff system in the country to impose a vaccination requirement on its licensed private health care practitioners. Later, the hospital mandated that all staff members have a booster vaccination by March 1st.
While the majority of workers received vaccinations and remained in their jobs, the system is having problems staffing because to the vaccines’ declining effectiveness at preventing infection as new SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) variants appear.
“The spike in cases is happening all over the country and is likely attributed to the highly contagious and more vaccine-resistant omicron subvariant,” Phillips wrote. “BA.5 is now the most infectious variant so far and is thought to be four times more vaccine evasive than the last dominant variant.”
Omicron has a subvariant called BA.5. According to data provided by the government, it just took over as the dominant strain in the country.
Phillips nodded, stating that BA.5 is four times more “vaccine-evasive” than BA2.12.1, the previous dominant strain, and that the vaccines offer little protection against infection.
Despite the fact that many staff are ill, Houston Methodist only had 290 COVID-19 patients in the system as of July 12, therefore Phillips claimed the jump is “not yet correlating with a large surge in hospitalizations.”
Stefanie Asin, a spokeswoman for Methodist, claims that none of the patients are Methodist staff members. Asin responded that she did not know how many of the hospitalized COVID patients are immunized. In late 2021, vaccination rates among patients in the system were close to 50%.
Problem With Mandates
“The problem with vaccine mandates is that they are immunologically ignorant by ignoring the powerful effect of natural immunity,” stated Dr. Marty Makary, a Johns Hopkins surgeon and professor. “Natural immunity has been formally studied in over 200 studies and has been found to be more effective than vaccinated immunity.”
Although fewer studies suggest the reverse, those who survived COVID-19 had better protection than those who had received vaccinations, according to research from scientists in Qatar, the US, and other nations.
Methodist fired nurse Jennifer Bridges in June 2021 because she objected to the vaccination.
“This only proves our point that the vaccine doesn’t work. A true vaccine would prevent you from catching the virus. It’s time Methodist owns up to its mistakes,” Bridges said after reviewing Phillips’s memo.
“That is absolutely a false premise,” Asin responded. “The vaccines were never intended to stop you from getting it. The point of the vaccines is to keep you from severe illness and being hospitalized. The mandates and the vaccines are absolutely working.”
Bridges is currently employed by the Dr. Mary Talley Bowden-owned COVID-19 clinic BreatheMD, which is based in Houston.
“I had COVID two years ago and have never gotten sick again—even though all I do is care for COVID patients,” she said.
Bridges and several other former Houston Methodist employees filed a lawsuit against their employer over the mandate’s refusal to recognize natural immunity as well as other issues, but the case was dismissed and the appeal was denied.
The naturally immune should have been kept, according to Makary, a member of the National Academy of Medicine.
“When Methodist fired nurses who had natural immunity for not being vaccinated, they fired those least likely to spread the infection at the workplace,” he said. “Many nurses have circulating antibodies that neutralize the COVID virus, but they are not antibodies that Methodist hospital recognizes.”
Bridges said, “The patients are suffering in the hospitals, and the little staff they have are overworked due to these shortages. It’s sad that they would rather keep away very healthy, unvaccinated nurses with natural immunity when they need us so badly.”
“What does natural immunity actually mean?” Asin responded. “We required the vaccines for our employees to keep the patients safe.” She said that there are no staffing shortages at the moment.
Change in Tune
The vaccinations were promoted as providing excellent protection by vaccine manufacturers and several health experts, and were approved by federal regulators to prevent symptomatic illness.
Authorities emphasize the protection the immunizations offer against serious disease in light of the waning of that protection.
According to correspondence, Methodist Hospital’s executives did not initially claim that the vaccinations were meant to shield their personnel against serious sickness. Any hospital employee who received two doses of the immunizations was offered a $500 bonus in an email from the hospital in February 2021. The email says, “The Hope Bonus is a reward for setting the right example and doing our part to stop the spread.”
On April 15, 2021, Houston Methodist’s president and CEO, Dr. Marc Boom, sent an email to the company’s staff informing them of the mandate’s goal of preventing illness and its transmission to patients.
“We’re seeing positive results as the number of employee infections has dropped inversely with the number of employees receiving the vaccine. It appears we’ve successfully created herd immunity at Houston Methodist.”
Herd immunity refers to a high enough level of immunity from vaccinations, prior illness, or both that the transmission of a disease is no longer a concern.
“COVID vaccines were originally thought to reduce COVID transmission, but that understanding quickly changed, rendering policies for unvaccinated people obsolete,” Makary said. “If someone who does not have natural immunity chooses not to get vaccinated, they do so at their own individual risk, but they pose no public health threat now that population immunity is high.”
When Bridges’s new employer, Bowden, declared that she would only serve unvaccinated patients who could not access care elsewhere, Houston Methodist revoked Bowden’s privileges. According to the hospital, Bowden was disseminating “misinformation.” Bowden was placed on suspension before quitting.
Bowden asserted that Houston Methodist officials owe an answer “to those of us who were persecuted for questioning the mandates,” because of the proportion of immunized workers who are absent from work due to illness.
“We have 400 employees out sick with COVID. They are out sick without severe illness. We stand by the effectiveness of the vaccine,” Asin said.
Phillips instructed his staff to avoid illness as much as possible.
“Our patients need us to stay healthy, so I strongly encourage our employees to be as vigilant as possible,” he said. “Please use good judgment in your personal lives as community spread … is high right now.”