A few skeptical U.S. hospital workers choose dismissal over vaccine

Jennifer Bridges, 39, an RN who was fired from her job after refusing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, poses for a portrait at Jenkins Park in Baytown, Texas, U.S., September 30, 2021. Picture taken September 30, 2021.  REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Jennifer Bridges, 39, an RN who was fired from her job after refusing the coronavirus illness (COVID-19) vaccine, poses for a portrait at Jenkins Park in Baytown, Texas, U.S., September 30, 2021. Picture taken September 30, 2021. (REUTERS)

NEW YORK  – Jennifer Bridges beloved her job as a nurse at Houston Methodist Hospital, the place she labored for eight years, however she selected to get fired moderately than inoculated towards COVID-19, believing that the vaccine was extra of a risk than the lethal virus.

Bridges was amongst about 150 staff who have been fired or resigned moderately than adjust to the requirement at Methodist, which was the nation’s first giant well being system to mandate vaccinations. About 25,000 different staff on the hospital system complied.

“I have never felt so strong about anything,” mentioned Bridges, 39, who lives in Houston. She was terminated from her $70,000 per 12 months put up on June 21, the deadline for workers to get a jab. “I did not feel there was proper research in this shot. It had been developed very quickly.”

Houston Methodist is certainly one of a rising variety of non-public employers which have made vaccinations a requirement of the job. New York and California are among the many states which have required vaccinations for healthcare workers.

Mandates have confirmed to be efficient in boosting vaccination charges in healthcare. In New York, for instance, Governor Kathy Hochul on Thursday mentioned 92% of the state’s greater than 625,000 healthcare workers have been inoculated, up from 73% on Aug. 16 when former Governor Andrew Cuomo laid down a Sept. 27 deadline for vaccinations.

Then-Health Commissioner Howard Zucker mentioned the mandate would “help close the vaccination gap” and scale back the unfold of the extremely contagious Delta variant.

Even so, there are pockets of resistance within the healthcare subject. Those interviewed by Reuters mentioned they’d been immunized for different ailments, however mentioned a scarcity of long-term information on the three COVID vaccines obtainable within the United States was motive sufficient for them to step into an unsure future after years of job safety.

Speaking in help of the vaccines obtainable within the United States, medical consultants have mentioned they’d obtained emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in lower than a 12 months, as an alternative of the same old a number of years, because of components together with ample funding and check topics, piggybacking off earlier analysis, and worldwide collaboration.


Many of the workers who walked away had sufficient monetary wherewithal to permit them to stay to their convictions.

For Bridges, the excessive demand for nurses meant she might refuse the shot with out sacrificing monetary safety. On the identical day she was fired by Methodist, she began coaching for her subsequent job at a personal nursing firm that has no vaccine mandate.

Nurse Katie Yarber additionally discovered a job after leaving Houston Methodist however solely after going 12 weeks with out a paycheck and depleting “a big chunk” of her financial savings. Still, she mentioned she doesn’t remorse her resolution to depart after 14 years of service.

Yarber, 35, mentioned she wouldn’t get the vaccine due to her spiritual convictions, a stance that the hospital rejected. She can be cautious of attainable long-term unintended effects.

“I kind of felt like it was a slap in my face,” mentioned Yarber, who started working on the hospital as a medical information clerk earlier than incomes a nursing diploma. “I went to work, I did my job, I did it with a smile. I was a really good employee.”

Yarber, who mentioned she has already had COVID, is now a work-from-home nurse case supervisor. She had a short stint at Texas Children’s Hospital however that ended when it too required vaccinations.

Carolyn Euart is certainly one of about 175 workers dismissed final Monday after refusing vaccinations at Novant Health, a North Carolina hospital community. She is now contemplating a brand new profession.

With 24 years as a affected person providers coordinator, Euart, 56, had deliberate to retire from Novant, however is now exploring opening a dessert restaurant and candy store.

After battling most cancers since 2008, she felt the danger of a vaccine was better than COVID, which 4 of her relations have had.

“I needed the job, but I didn’t think that my job was worth my life,” she mentioned.

A Novant spokeswoman mentioned on Tuesday that 99% of its greater than 35,000 staff have been vaccinated towards coronavirus.

Nationally, greater than 77% of adults have obtained a minimum of one vaccine dose, in keeping with information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The nation’s COVID demise toll has surpassed 700,000, in keeping with a Reuters tally.

In upstate New York, Andrew Kurtyko mentioned he is able to be fired from his $90,000 nursing job at Mount St. Mary’s Hospital in Lewiston for refusing the shot. He is aware of he might earn extra by working as a “travel nurse,” taking momentary jobs across the nation.

“Certainly with my years of experience, I’m pretty marketable,” mentioned Kurtyko, 47, a divorced father of a school pupil who has a mortgage to pay.

Like another medical workers, Kurtyko questions the efficacy and security of the vaccines. He can be in search of a non secular exemption from the Catholic Hospital. If he’s denied, he expects to lose his job on Oct. 12.

Bob Nevens, 47, Houston Methodist’s prime threat supervisor for 10 years, additionally prefers to take his possibilities with COVID over a vaccine. As a consequence, he turned one of many nation’s first office mandate casualties in April.

Besides a scarcity of long-term information, Nevens mentioned he refused Methodist’s mandate as a result of it didn’t acknowledge “natural immunity” for many who had already contracted COVID and since vaccine producers are shielded from legal responsibility.

He mentioned he was not nervous about cash.

“Financially, I’m fine,” he mentioned. “Mentally, it’s exhausting, because I didn’t want to make that decision. I had planned on retiring from Houston Methodist.”


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