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

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NEW YORK, Oct. 3 (Reuters) – Jennifer Bridges loved her job as a nurse at the Methodist Hospital in Houston, where she worked for eight years, but she chose to be fired rather than being vaccinated against COVID -19, believing the vaccine to be more of a threat than the deadly virus.

Bridges was among some 150 employees who were made redundant or resigned rather than complying with the demands of Methodist, which was the first major healthcare system in the country to mandate vaccinations. About 25,000 other hospital system employees have complied.

“I’ve never felt so strong about anything,” said Bridges, 39, who lives in Houston. She was fired from her $ 70,000-a-year job on June 21, the deadline for employees to get a jab. “I didn’t think there was proper research in this plan. It had been developed very quickly.”

Houston Methodist is one of a growing number of private employers who have made immunizations a requirement of their job. New York and California are among the states that have required vaccination of healthcare workers.

The warrants have been shown to be effective in increasing immunization rates in health care. In New York, for example, Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Thursday that 92% of the state’s more than 625,000 health workers had been vaccinated, up from 73% on August 16 when former Gov. Andrew Cuomo set the date. September 27 deadline for vaccinations.

Then-health commissioner Howard Zucker said the mandate would “help close the vaccination gap” and reduce the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

Despite this, there are pockets of resistance in the health field. People interviewed by Reuters said they had been immune to other diseases, but said the lack of long-term data on the three COVID vaccines available in the United States was reason enough for them to enter. an uncertain future after years of job security.

Speaking in favor of vaccines available in the United States, medical experts said they received emergency use clearance from the Food and Drug Administration in less than a year, instead of the usual several years , due to factors such as sufficient funding and test subjects. , building on previous research and international collaboration.

‘CLAP IN MY FACE’

Many of the workers who moved away had sufficient financial resources to allow them to stick to their beliefs.

For Bridges, the high demand for nurses meant she could refuse the vaccine without sacrificing financial security. The same day she was fired by the Methodists, she began training for her next job at a private nursing company that does not have a vaccination mandate.

Nurse Katie Yarber also found a job after leaving Houston Methodist, but only after going 12 weeks without a paycheck and depleting “a big chunk” of her savings. Still, she said she did not regret her decision to leave after 14 years of service.

Yarber, 35, said she would not get the vaccine because of her religious beliefs, a position the hospital rejected. She is also wary of possible long-term side effects.

“I kind of felt like it was a slap in the face,” said Yarber, who started working at the hospital as a medical records clerk before graduating as a nurse. “I went to work, I did my job, I did it with a smile. I was a very good employee.”

Jennifer Bridges, 39, a registered nurse who was fired from her job after refusing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, poses for a portrait at Jenkins Park in Baytown, Texas, United States on 30 September 2021. Photo taken on September 30, 2021 REUTERS / Callaghan O’Hare

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Yarber, who said she had previously had COVID, is now a nurse case manager working from home. She made a brief stint at the Texas Children’s Hospital, but it ended when he also needed vaccinations.

Carolyn Euart is among some 175 workers laid off last Monday after refusing vaccinations at Novant Health, a North Carolina hospital network. She is now considering a new career.

With 24 years as a patient services coordinator, Euart, 56, had planned to retire from Novant, but now plans to open a dessert restaurant and confectionery store.

After battling cancer since 2008, she felt the risk of a vaccine was greater than COVID, which four of her family members have had.

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

A spokeswoman for Novant said on Tuesday that 99% of its more than 35,000 employees have been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Nationally, more than 77% of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The country’s COVID death toll has exceeded 700,000, according to a Reuters tally.

In upstate New York, Andrew Kurtyko said he was prepared to be fired from his $ 90,000 nursing job at Mount St. Mary’s Hospital in Lewiston for refusing the shot. He knows he could earn more by working as a “travel nurse”, taking temporary jobs across the country.

“Certainly with my years of experience I’m quite marketable,” said Kurtyko, 47, the divorced father of a college student who has a mortgage to pay.

Like other medical workers, Kurtyko questions the efficacy and safety of vaccines. He is also asking for a religious exemption from the Catholic hospital. If refused, he expects to lose his job on October 12.

Bob Nevens, 47, Houston Methodist’s senior risk manager for 10 years, also prefers to try his luck with COVID rather than a vaccine. As a result, he became one of the country’s first work warrant victims in April.

In addition to a lack of long-term data, Nevens said he was refusing the Methodist tenure because he did not recognize “natural immunity” for those who had previously contracted COVID and because vaccine manufacturers were in need of help. free from any liability.

He said he didn’t worry about the money.

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

Reporting by Peter Szekely and Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty and Daniel Wallis

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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