Children's Health in Dallas and Cook Children's in Fort Worth are both joining the growing list of businesses and hospitals requiring all employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Children's Health and Cook Children's are the fourth and fifth medical providers in North Texas to require the vaccine after Baylor Scott & White Health, Methodist Health, and Texas Health Resources all announced last week they were requiring the vaccine of all employees.
Children's Health said in a statement Wednesday they would be "requiring all team members, providers, volunteers, students/trainees, as well as vendors and contractors receive the COVID-19 vaccine and be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1, 2021."
In their statement, Cook Children's said every "employee, physician, provider, credentialed staff, student, volunteer, contractor, and on-site vendor will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by noon on Sept. 27."
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Children's Health said 80% of their employees are fully vaccinated, but that as COVID-19 cases rapidly increase now is the right time to take the next step to make sure both patients and employees have the greatest protection against the virus.
"We are privileged to care for some of the most medically complex children in the region, and we believe it is our ethical duty to protect them and the nearly 70% of our patients who are younger than 12-years-old and ineligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine," the hospital said.
In an email to more than 8,000 Cook Children’s employees, President and CEO Rick W. Merrill attributed the decision to mandate vaccinations among staff to the increasing rates of COVID-19 in Tarrant County. Public health officials in the region said community spread of the virus is once again considered ‘high’ due to the surging delta variant.
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“The delta variant is very contagious and many of our patients are vulnerable to COVID-19 because they can’t get vaccinated at this time,” said Merrill. “I personally received the vaccine in December, as did more than 95% of our physicians and two-thirds of our employees. Given how close we are to critically ill children, we know this is the right decision for our system and ultimately our patients.”
In their statement, Cook Children's said mandates regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and health care workers are supported by organizations such as the Children’s Hospital Association, American Hospital Association, American Nursing Association, American Medical Association, and Texas Nurses Association.
Neither Children's Health or Cook Children's has said what would happen to employees who do not meet the vaccine deadline.
Houston Challenge of Vaccine Mandate Dismissed
Earlier this summer, more than 150 employees of the Houston Methodist hospital system who refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine were fired or resigned after a judge dismissed an employee lawsuit over their vaccine requirement.
In a scathing ruling, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes deemed lead plaintiff Jennifer Bridges' contention that the vaccines are "experimental and dangerous" are false and she dismissed the suit adding that if the employees didn't like the requirement, they could go work elsewhere.
"Bridges can freely choose to accept or refuse a COVID-19 vaccine; however, if she refuses, she will simply need to work somewhere else. If a worker refuses an assignment, changed office, earlier start time, or has other directives, he may be properly fired. Every employment includes limits on the worker's behavior in exchange for remuneration. That is all part of the bargain," Hughes concluded.
Houston Methodist required employees to complete their immunization by June 7. The next day, 178 employees were suspended for two weeks without pay for not complying.