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said he believes others will soon fol- low suit. The hospital system has four clinics in Conroe and one in Montgomery. “Now CEOs of other health care institutions are calling nearly every day to ask how we are doing it,” Boom said in an email addressed to employees in April. “I have spoken to countless hospital leaders across the country who plan to mandate COVID- 19 vaccination soon.” While no other Houston-area health care system had announced vaccina- tion requirements before press time, Baylor College of Medicine—which has a medical center in Conroe—said a COVID-19 vaccine requirement is likely to be implemented this fall for employees. Outside of hospitals, cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean Interna- tional, which oers cruises from Galveston, are requiring guests age 16 and older to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Delta Airlines, which operates out of George Bush Inter- continental Airport, is also requiring new hires to get the shot. A survey conducted by PNC Finan- cial Services, a bank holding company and nancial services corporation, found more than 40% of the 150 small- to medium-sized businesses surveyed in the Greater Houston area plan to require it. It is not clear if the survey includes businesses in Mont- gomery County. As of press time, conversations with city and local business ocials in the Conroe and Montgomery area did not indicate vaccine mandates are occurring locally—except for a hand- ful of assisted-living facilities. “I think that most businesses— locally, statewide and nationally—are encouraging their employees to get vaccinated but are stopping short of requiring it,” said Danielle Scheiner, executive director for the Conroe Eco- nomic Development Council. “I don’t see it having a major impact locally.” Jason Millsaps, chief of sta for Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough and executive director of Montgomery County’s Oce of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, echoed that sentiment. “We have a high number of folks that just have a conscientious objec- tion to vaccines in this county,” he said. “In this county, it’s always going to be voluntary, never forced.” Still, some experts predict there
Businesses mandating vaccines:
Mandates are occurring both locally and nationally. Federal guidelines have eased, making it easier to mandate vaccines, while Texas has pushed back.
Health care Senior living Travel
COVID-19 vaccines begin rolling out in Texas.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration updates guidance to no longer require employers to record COVID-19 vaccine side eects until May 2022.
Delta Airlines: Vaccine mandated May 17
Houston Methodist: Vaccine mandated March 31
PNC Financial Services surveyed 150 businesses in the Greater Houston area to nd out their vaccination plans. BUSINESS RESPONSES
James McDeavitt, executive vice pres- ident and dean of clinical aairs. He said he anticipates this will be even more common in the health care sec- tor once the vaccine receives full Food and Drug Administration approval, likely in the summer. Memorial Hermann, which includes Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center at I-45 and Hwy. 242, did not provide comment. Legality States, not the federal government, can mandate vaccinations when there is a public health need, Koch said. However, there must be certain exemptions such as for religious rea- sons, and vaccines cannot be forced. “Somebody cannot be essentially held down and forced to receive a vac- cine,” Koch said. “Rather, there must be a reasonable and proportionate ne, for example.” On April 5, Abbott issued Executive Order GA-35, which states that Texas will never mandate COVID-19 vacci- nation—although this order species only vaccines under an emergency use authorization. It is not clear if the order would change under full FDA approval. The order also prohibits • States Texas will never mandate COVID-19 vaccination; • Prohibits governmental entities and entities receiving state funds from requiring COVID-19 vaccination; and • Applies to COVID-19 vaccine under an emergency use authorization; vaccine may reach full Food and Drug Administration approval in the summer GOV. GREG. ABBOTT ISSUED EXECUTIVE ORDER GA35 ONAPRIL 5:
take some action regarding vaccination
provide assistance or education
Methodist, 178 employees had not yet complied with the requirement as of early June. Also, 117 employees led a lawsuit. The lawsuit, led in Montgomery County, stated vaccines authorized under emergency use should not be mandated as a condi- tion of employment. “The only choice the plaintis have is to join the experimental trial and be injected with the experimental vac- cine or be red,” the lawsuit stated. Several of the plaintis are Mont- gomery County residents who are employed at Houston Methodist The Woodlands, and one plainti, Averi Reed, is an employee at Houston Methodist Imaging Center-Conroe, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit was dismissed in mid-June, but the plaintis’ attorney, Jared Woodll, said in an email they will appeal. HCA Houston Healthcare, which includes HCA Houston Healthcare Conroe, stated because the COVID- 19 vaccines are under emergency use authorization, it is not requiring vac- cinations at this time. Also serving the Greater Houston area, Baylor College of Medicine will likely mandate the COVID-19 vac- cine to employees in the fall, said Dr.
could be a domino eect with more businesses possibly mandating vac- cines moving forward. “I think more businesses over time will start mandating the COVID-19 vaccine, especially if it becomes more Although ocials said COVID-19 vaccination requirements will likely not be widespread in Montgomery County, area hospitals are beginning to require or consider requiring them. Boom said the decision was remi- niscent of when Houston Methodist became one of the rst in the country to require the u shot for its employ- ees in 2009. “We would never ask [our employ- ees] to do anything that we thought was unsafe,” he said, As of May 18, 98% of its employ- ees had been vaccinated, enough to achieve herd immunity among sta, hospital ocials said. Herd immunity is the level of vaccination needed to reach immunity in a population. Boomsaid since HoustonMethodist publicly announced its vaccine pol- icy, it has been met with both support and pushback. According to Houston available,” Koch said. Health care systems
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