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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

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Omicron variant lifts Moderna's stock price — CDC strengthens COVID booster recommendation.
  2. Politics: Biden says fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns."
  3. States: Federal court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for health workers in 10 states — NYC urges masks indoors "at all times" regardless of vaccination status — New York declares state of emergency amid concerns over Omicron.
  4. World: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating worldWHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries — First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Sep 20, 2021 - Health

Biden administration to lift travel ban for fully vaccinated international travelers

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients announced on Monday that the Biden administration will allow fully vaccinated travelers from around the world to enter the U.S. beginning in November.

Why it matters: The announcement comes as President Biden seeks commitments from countries to donate vaccines to the global COVAX initiative. He is expected to host a COVID summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly this week, and many of the countries attending have expressed frustration with the travel ban.

Rep. Tim Ryan tests positive for coronavirus

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) said Monday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus, and that his vaccination against the virus prevented a more severe infection.

What they're saying: "Today, I tested positive for COVID-19," Ryan wrote on Twitter. "While I’m currently experiencing mild symptoms, I’m grateful to have the protection of a safe and effective vaccine — and I know without it, this illness could be much, much worse."

  • "What we have learned over the last year and a half is that we are in this together, and I urge all Ohioans to help us crush this pandemic by wearing a mask and getting vaccinated so that we can get back to normal."