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Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

A federal judge on Saturday dismissed a lawsuit brought by 117 Houston Methodist staff over the hospital's policy requiring all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Why it matters: This is the first federal court ruling on a coronavirus vaccine mandate. Attorney Jared Woodfill, representing the plaintiffs, told KHOU 11 it's "the first battle in a long fight," as he vowed to file another lawsuit soon.

Driving the news: U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes noted in the ruling that the federal government has advised that companies can require workers to get vaccines.

  • He rejected the lawsuit's argument that the mandate of the hospital in Houston, Texas, was unlawful.
  • "This is not coercion," Hughes said. "Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the COVID-19 virus. It is a choice made to keep staff, patients and their families safer."
  • Hughes called the plaintiffs' argument equating the injection requirement to medical experimentation in Nazi concentration camps "reprehensible."

The big picture: Houston Methodist suspended 178 employees without pay for 14 days last Tuesday for failing to comply with the mandate.

  • Hughes earlier this month denied the plaintiffs' request for a temporary restraining order to block the suspension.
  • The judge said the public interest in "caring for patients during a pandemic far outweighs protecting the vaccination preferences of 116 employees," noting the staff were "jeopardizing" their own health" and that of others.

What they're saying: Houston Methodist said in an emailed statement that it was pleased the judge had dismissed the "frivolous lawsuit" that "falsely claimed" COVID-19 vaccines were unsafe.

  • The hospital pointed to the administering of over 300 million doses in the U.S. and falls in positive cases and hospitalizations as proof that vaccines do work.
  • Marc Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist said in the statement: "We can now put this behind us ... All our employees have now met the requirements of the vaccine policy and I couldn't be prouder of them."
  • Read the judge's ruling in full, via DocumentCloud:

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout and to correct the gender of the judge.

Go deeper

Aug 3, 2021 - Health

Israel reinstates COVID-19 restrictions as cases surge

Elderly residents wait to receive their third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a medical center in Tel Aviv on Aug. 2. Photo: Kobi Wolf/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Israel announced Tuesday it will tighten public health measures due to surging in COVID-19 case numbers.

Driving the news: The latest restrictions come as Israel saw nearly 4,000 new daily cases reported on Tuesday, the highest count so far since the country began experiencing an uptick last month, the AP reports.

23 hours ago - Health

Biden to GOP governors who resist COVID rules: "Get out of the way"

President Biden speaks at the White House on Tuesday. Photo: Shawn Thew/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden spoke out Tuesday against Republican governors who've sought to block vaccine and mask mandates, as COVID-19 cases spike across the U.S.

Why it matters: Biden has tried to avoid making the pandemic a partisan issue, but the Washington Post notes the White House "has grown increasingly frustrated" with Republican leaders looking to obstruct health measures.

24 hours ago - Sports

Greece's artistic swimming team to miss Olympics after COVID outbreak

Greece's Maria Alzigkouzi Kominea and Evangelia Papazogloun the Artistic Swimming Duet Free Routine Preliminary of the Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on Aug. 2, 2021 in Japan. Photo" Clive Rose/Getty Images

Greece's entire 12-woman artistic swimming team is out of the Tokyo Olympic Games due to an outbreak of COVID-19 among the group.

Driving the news: Tokyo Games organizers confirmed Wednesday that five members of the Greek team had tested positive for the virus and that their teammates were considered close contacts.