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

WorldOct 03, 2021 05:11PM ET
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4/4 © Reuters. 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 2/4

By Peter Szekely and Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jennifer Bridges loved her job as a nurse at Houston Methodist Hospital, where she worked for eight years, but she chose to get fired rather than inoculated against COVID-19, believing that the vaccine was more of a threat than the deadly virus.

Bridges was among about 150 employees who were fired or resigned rather than comply with the requirement at Methodist, which was the country's first large health system to mandate vaccinations. About 25,000 other employees at the hospital system complied.

"I have never felt so strong about anything," said Bridges, 39, who lives in Houston. She was terminated from her $70,000 per year post on June 21, the deadline for employees to get a jab. "I did not feel there was proper research in this shot. It had been developed very quickly."

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

Mandates have proven to be effective in boosting vaccination rates in healthcare. In New York, for example, Governor Kathy Hochul on Thursday said 92% of the state's more than 625,000 healthcare workers were 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 said the mandate would "help close the vaccination gap" and reduce the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

Even so, there are pockets of resistance in the healthcare field. Those interviewed by Reuters said they had been immunized for other diseases, but said a lack of long-term data on the three COVID vaccines available in the United States was reason enough for them to step into an uncertain future after years of job security.

Speaking in support of the vaccines available in the United States, medical experts have said they had received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in less than a year, instead of the usual several years, due to factors including ample funding and test subjects, piggybacking off earlier research, and international collaboration.

'SLAP IN MY FACE'

Many of the workers who walked away had enough financial wherewithal to allow them to stick to their convictions.

For Bridges, the high demand for nurses meant she could refuse the shot without sacrificing financial security. On the same day she was fired by Methodist, she started training for her next job at a private nursing company that has no vaccine 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 does not regret her decision to depart after 14 years of service.

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

"I kind of felt like it was a slap in my face," said Yarber, who began working at the hospital as a medical records clerk before earning a nursing degree. "I went to work, I did my job, I did it with a smile. I was a really good employee."

Yarber, who said she has already had COVID, is now a work-from-home nurse case manager. She had a brief stint at Texas Children's Hospital but that ended when it too required vaccinations.

Carolyn Euart is one of about 175 workers dismissed 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 is now exploring opening a dessert restaurant and sweet shop.

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 that my job was worth my life," she said.

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

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

In upstate New York, Andrew Kurtyko said he is ready 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 around the country.

"Certainly with my years of experience, I'm pretty marketable," said Kurtyko, 47, a divorced father of a college student who has a mortgage to pay.

Like some other medical workers, Kurtyko questions the efficacy and safety of the vaccines. He is also seeking a religious exemption from the Catholic Hospital. If he is denied, he expects to lose his job on Oct. 12.

Bob Nevens, 47, Houston Methodist's top risk manager for 10 years, also prefers to take his chances with COVID over a vaccine. As a consequence, he became one of the country's first workplace mandate casualties in April.

Besides a lack of long-term data, Nevens said he refused Methodist's mandate because it did not acknowledge "natural immunity" for those who had already contracted COVID and because vaccine manufacturers are shielded from liability.

He said he was not worried about money.

"Financially, I'm fine," he said. "Mentally, it's exhausting, because I didn't want to make that decision. I had planned on retiring from Houston Methodist."

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

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Comments (15)
Jeff Chevalier
Jeff Chevalier Oct 03, 2021 10:39PM ET
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What do you expect from a Methodist in Texas. GOD will protect her from Covid! $20 says she or a family member is dead in six months..
Eudon Hickey
Eudon Hickey Oct 03, 2021 10:39PM ET
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What a silly comment. Why worry if people are vaccinated or not? None of your business.
Jeff Chevalier
Jeff Chevalier Oct 03, 2021 10:39PM ET
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She works in a freaking hospital. That's like hiring a *******to work at the day care.
Jeff Chevalier
Jeff Chevalier Oct 03, 2021 10:39PM ET
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That *** should be ped of hile...
Trading Life Stlye
Trading Life Stlye Oct 03, 2021 10:28PM ET
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wwe star triple h had a heart attack after taking the jab. now has to have surgery.
James Pattison
James Pattison Oct 03, 2021 10:09PM ET
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No one wants to mention the postal workers are exempt from this whole bs?
James Pattison
James Pattison Oct 03, 2021 10:02PM ET
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Man… my body my choice sure ended fast…
Vinny din
Vinny din Oct 03, 2021 9:53PM ET
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any medical who refuses the vaccine should lose thete license and go be a waitress
James Pattison
James Pattison Oct 03, 2021 9:53PM ET
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What if they already had the virus and have natural immunity… most hospital workers on the front lines… already had and survived covid…
James Pattison
James Pattison Oct 03, 2021 9:53PM ET
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And besides… we all know there are no longterm studies on this vaccine… we are the long term study
Trevor Roberts
LimitUp Oct 03, 2021 7:50PM ET
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Every liberal position is a lie thats why their positions always contradict one another
Yankee Steve
Yankee Steve Oct 03, 2021 7:27PM ET
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I will just quit my job and retire. My body my choice. *******Joe B*
pasa pada
pasa pada Oct 03, 2021 7:27PM ET
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good riddance. don't let the door hit you on the way out
Jose Cabreja
Jose Cabreja Oct 03, 2021 7:07PM ET
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those that did take the Jab was mainly a financial reason. *******them 🤡🤡🤡 n their mandate. *******you need a healthy pass to walk in a Fast food restaurant 🤣🤣🤣
Mark Stallone
Mark Stallone Oct 03, 2021 6:12PM ET
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Descrimination. My body, my choice.
pasa pada
pasa pada Oct 03, 2021 6:12PM ET
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no one is forcing you to get the vaccine. Remember "right to work"?
Josh Davis
Josh Davis Oct 03, 2021 6:12PM ET
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pasa pada if its fired or get the vaccine rhafs not a choice. Everywhere is going to require it. So no its not a choice. Im leaving florida because of this. Texas will welcome my healthcare skills while patients in florida will continue tonsiffer from this.
Ben Brown
Ben Brown Oct 03, 2021 6:10PM ET
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Wow..the left and the people who vote for them. If 99% in one network bowed down for the jab then what difference does it make if the other 1% did not? This is not about safety but about control and no doubt it will backfire with different results than those forecasted.
pasa pada
pasa pada Oct 03, 2021 5:56PM ET
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cry me a river. No vaccine, no job.
Juniper Ls
Juniper Ls Oct 03, 2021 10:23AM ET
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It's not a lie if Fauci didn't say it.
Roger Miller
Roger Miller Oct 03, 2021 9:53AM ET
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If they want us to ignore the side effects and just trust the goverment regulators and bureaucrats they should not list side effects for any drug.
Tom Lemon
Tom Lemon Oct 03, 2021 9:53AM ET
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non vaccinated side effect. respirator s and long haul side effects. my side effects after my vaccination: sore arm, headache, slight fever. pick one or the other.
Mart Bab
Rubberduck1973 Oct 03, 2021 7:02AM ET
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Bla bla bla. Come corona and everybody is an expert on health and vaccines. The stupidity continues. Every day we put all sorts of uncheckable food and drinks in our bodies. And when there is a pandemic and the only pressing reason to look the other way a have a little bit of faith in humanity and the experts, we all default and know better. BS to power of 150
Josh Davis
Josh Davis Oct 03, 2021 7:02AM ET
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Fyi this “vaccine” has injured and killed more than all other vaccines if you combined and then doubled that number. No thanks. Ill keep my health you keep your compliance
Baris Duzalan
Baris Duzalan Oct 03, 2021 7:02AM ET
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Stop spreading lies!
pasa pada
pasa pada Oct 03, 2021 7:02AM ET
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you can't even count to two so I am impressed that you were able to pull this statistic out of your ********so effortlessly 🤡
Pradeep Jhanjee
BlauGloriole Oct 03, 2021 7:02AM ET
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The vaccine does not prevent getting Covid nor does it prevent giving Covid to another. This fact makes taking the vaccine a personal risk decision. All these mandates do not belong in a free society. Sad to see how rapidly good neighbors turn into tyrants and snitches. For heaven's sake the mortality rate is less than 0.5% and much less if you are not obese and younger than 70. For THIS we are turning ourselves into a third world dictatorship. Simply insane!
Juniper Ls
Juniper Ls Oct 03, 2021 6:49AM ET
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More than a few are leaving.
Josh Davis
Josh Davis Oct 03, 2021 6:49AM ET
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Way more than a few. If it was a few the national guard wouldnt need to be there in new york. Lets not talk facts though like a good media outlet would am i right.
Juniper Ls
Juniper Ls Oct 03, 2021 6:49AM ET
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