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New Jersey hospital system fires six supervisors for refusing COVID shots

Unvaccinated people at risk in COVID surge
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A New Jersey hospital system has fired half a dozen senior employees for refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The edict by RWJBarnabas Health — the Garden State's largest private employer — comes as the country contends with another wave of cases as the Delta variant spreads among unvaccinated Americans.

RWJBarnabas on Thursday confirmed it had parted company with six workers, citing "an ethical and professional responsibility to protect our patients and ensure a safe, COVID-19-free environment." 

New Jersey's biggest health care system will be "mandating vaccination for all staff and physicians and will be announcing our plans in the coming days," a spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch in an email. RWJBarnabas employs more than 35,000 people, including 9,000 physicians and 1,000 residents and interns. It operates 15 hospitals and a slew of medical centers across New Jersey.

RWJBarnabas in May said it was requiring staff at the supervisor level and above get immunized against the coronavirus by the end of June. "The vast majority of our management team has been vaccinated," the spokesperson said. 

As of July 14, 2,979 supervisor and higher-lever staff members, or 99.7%, were fully vaccinated or had received medical or religious exemptions or deferrals, according to RWJBarnabas. Six did not comply and are no longer employees, the spokesperson added.

The action echoes that taken by Houston Methodist, where more than 150 workers were fired or quit after a judge dismissed a lawsuit over its vaccine mandate. The hospital system — a medical center and six community hospitals — was the first in the country to set a deadline for all employees to be fully immunized against the coronavirus, with nearly 25,000 employees complying.

"It is legal for health care institutions to mandate vaccines, as we have done with the flu vaccine since 2009," Houston Methodist said in a statement that's also bolstered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's stance that employers are allowed to require COVID-19 vaccines.

Since Houston Methodist announced its mandate, more than 40 hospitals or medical centers across the country have followed suit.

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