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Staff protest the Houston Methodist Hospital's vaccination mandate in Baytown, Texas.
Recognition…Yi-Chin Lee / Houston Chronicle, via Associated Press

Dozens of employees at a hospital in the Houston area protested Monday night against a policy requiring employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

The Houston Methodist Hospital had told staff that they had to get vaccinated by Monday. Last month, 117 employees filed a lawsuit against the hospital over vaccination policy.

While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends flu vaccination for health care workers and some hospital systems require it, few American companies have requested Covid-19 vaccinations, despite the federal government requiring employers to have vaccines for on-site employees can prescribe.

Executives, lawyers and consultants say many companies hesitate because of a long list of legal considerations that the Equal Opportunities Commission says must be followed before mandating vaccinations. Some companies say they are cautious about setting mandates until vaccines have received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration, which has previously granted emergency approval.

Jennifer Bridges, a nurse who led the Houston Methodist protest, cited the lack of full FDA approval for the syringes as a reason she would not be vaccinated.

Vaccine reluctance was high among frontline health workers in the United States: surveys showed that almost half remained unvaccinated by mid-March, despite being among the first to be eligible for vaccinations in December. A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation in March 2021 found that healthcare workers had concerns about the novelty of the vaccines and their possible side effects, both of which are common reasons for waiting for a vaccination.

By Monday night, dozens of Houston have Methodist Employees had gathered outside at the Baytown, Texas, hospital system location with signs saying “Vaxx is Venom” and “Don’t lose sight of our rights”.

“If we don’t stop now and change something, everyone will just fall over,” Ms. Bridges told the local media that covered the protest. “It will create a domino effect. Everyone across the country is going to be forced to get things into their bodies that they don’t want, and that’s not right. “

Anyone who did not meet the hospital’s vaccination deadline on Monday was given a two-week unpaid ban. If they fail to meet the requirements by June 21, the Houston Methodist said it would “initiate the termination process for employees.”

The workers’ lawsuit accuses the hospital of “forcing its employees to be human ‘guinea pigs’ as a condition for continued employment”.

In a statement, the Houston Methodist said that by Monday, nearly 100 percent of its 26,000 employees had been compliant with the vaccine policy. The hospital said it was aware that some staff members who did not meet vaccine requirements wanted to protest and invited other staff to join them.

“We fully support the right of our staff to gather peacefully in their free time, but it is unacceptable even to suggest that they leave their patients to participate in this activity,” the hospital said. “We believe that our employees will continue to put our patients first.”

On Monday, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas signed law banning state companies or government agencies from requesting vaccination records or digital vaccination records, and joined states like Florida and Arkansas. It is unclear how or if the new law will affect employer mandates like the Houston Methodist’s.

In some industries, including aviation, employers take a middle ground approach. Delta Air Lines, which sells vaccines from its Atlanta Aviation Museum, said in May that it would strongly encourage its employees to get vaccinated and request it for new employees.

After considering a blanket mandate, United Airlines said last week that anyone hired in the United States after June 15 must provide proof of vaccination no later than one week after launch. Exceptions can be made for those who have medical or religious reasons not to get vaccinated, the company added.

Global summary

Workers in the Navotas fishing port received the Covid vaccine in the Philippines on Monday.
Recognition…Aaron Favila / Associated Press

The Philippine government said it will expand its Covid-19 vaccination drive this week by allowing millions more key workers to step up their efforts and boost the economy.

With more doses from China, Russia and Covax’s vaccine exchange initiative, officials said the Philippines would vaccinate more than 35 million people who work outside of the home, including medical staff, public transport workers, journalists, in the coming months and other. But so far the government only has a fraction of the doses it needs.

Carlito Galvez Jr., the head of the government’s coronavirus strategy team, told a press conference Monday evening that vaccination of these workers was necessary to “stimulate the economy.”

Having to work outside the home, these workers “are among the most vulnerable to the disease and need protection regardless of the industry they belong to,” Galvez said.

In the Philippines, around six million people have received at least one vaccination dose, where previously only front-line workers, the elderly and people with certain illnesses were eligible for vaccination. Many Filipinos have expressed doubts about the safety of the vaccines. Experts say it could be many months before enough of the country’s 108 million people are vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, if it occurs at all.

The government said the Philippines received approximately 9.3 million doses of vaccine and that some shipments were delayed. Most of the doses come from the Chinese drug manufacturer Sinovac; Others in use are the Sputnik-V vaccine from Russia and the syringes AstraZeneca and Pfizer supplied by Covax.

Mr. Galvez said more doses are expected in the coming months, including 15 million more Pfizer doses in the third quarter of the year.

New coronavirus infections in the Philippines have declined from highs in March and April, but the disease continues to rage across the country, particularly in remote provinces. Health officials reported 71 deaths from the virus on Monday, bringing the total death toll to nearly 22,000. The country has recorded more than 1.2 million infections, one of the highest overall numbers in Asia.

President Rodrigo Duterte warned that anyone violating health protocols could be charged with a criminal offense and noted during a weekly cabinet meeting on Monday that he had seen many people who did not wear masks in public. Mr Duterte, who is known for stormy talks, said someone infected with the coronavirus but not wearing a mask “could be charged with murder”.

“If not,” he added, “you could be blamed for reckless carelessness.”

In other developments around the globe:

  • Spain reopened its borders on Monday to Americans and other vaccinated visitors from countries authorities believe are low risk of Covid-19 to prop up summer tourism, which is a pillar of its economy. Visitors from countries that are at higher risk in Spain, such as France and Germany, now only need to present a negative antigen test instead of the previously more expensive PCR test. Cruise ships can also moor in Spanish ports again.

Raphael Minder Reporting contributed.

An employee of the Hollingsworth Cannabis Company packed pre-rolled marijuana joints near Shelton, Washington in April 2018.
Recognition…Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

As part of its strategy to vaccinate more of its population, Washington state will allow adults to claim a free marijuana joint if they get a Covid-19 shot.

The state’s Liquor and Cannabis Committee announced on Monday that the “Joints for Jabs” campaign is effective immediately and will run until July 12.

The board said it would allow participating marijuana retailers to offer a pre-rolled joint to customers 21 or older when they receive their first or second dose at an active vaccine clinic at the retail location. The promotion only applies to joints, not other products such as edibles.

So far, 58 percent of people in Washington have received at least one dose and 49 percent are fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database.

Washington isn’t the only state that has cannabis advertising. An Arizona pharmacy recently announced a similar campaign providing free marijuana joints or gummy edibles to Arizona residents 21 and older receiving a vaccination.

Washington’s Spirits and Cannabis Administration recently allowed residents with proof of vaccination a free beer, wine, or cocktail.

Since the US vaccination rate dropped sharply in mid-April, states and cities have had actions like Free beer in New Jersey and a raffle to win full-ride college scholarships in New York and Ohio. Several states have hosted lotteries that awarded cash prizes of $ 1 million or more.

Andy Slavitt, a White House virus advisor, said the Biden administration is encouraging states to be creative – including through lotteries or other financial incentives – to get people vaccinated. The federal government allows states to use certain federal aid funds to pay for these types of programs.



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