Carrot or stick? After offering incentives for staff to get vaccinated, Houston Methodist becomes first US hospital to require shots — or face termination

Drs. Faisal Masud, Steven Hsu, and Dharamvir Jain pose after receiving vaccinations at Houston Methodist Hospital. Credit: Greg Abbott
Drs. Faisal Masud, Steven Hsu, and Dharamvir Jain pose after receiving vaccinations at Houston Methodist Hospital. Credit: Greg Abbott

The [Houston Methodist] hospital system is requiring that all of its workers get their shots by June 7, making it the first hospital system in the U.S. to issue a vaccination mandate. Managers at the hospital faced an earlier deadline and had to get their shots by April 15.

Houston Methodist — a medical center and six community hospitals — rewarded its vaccinated workers with an extra $500 back in March, while also signaling that at some point the shots would no longer be voluntary for its workers. 

The health system needs to do all it can to keep patients safe during the pandemic, and that includes having all staff vaccinated, [said president and CEO Dr. Marc Boom].

“Mandating the vaccine was not a decision we made lightly, but science has proven that the COVID-19 vaccines are very safe and very effective. Like I say to everyone who asks—whether they are reporters, the public, patients or our employees, it is our sacred obligation to do everything possible to keep our patients safe.”

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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in December that employers can legally require workers to get a COVID-19 shot. Exceptions can be made for workers with a disability or those with “sincerely held” religious beliefs that prevent them from getting inoculated.

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