More than 150 workers at a Houston hospital system have resigned or been fired after refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Houston Methodist told its employees in April that they had to get vaccinated by 7 June, the first major US healthcare system to make the jabs compulsory.
Some 178 people refused and were suspended without pay for two weeks.
During that time, 153 of the group, who still refused, either resigned or were fired.
Also in June, 117 employees took the hospital system to court over the requirement, saying their situation was similar to the medical experiments performed on unwilling victims in Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War.
But on 12 June US District Judge Lynn Hughes threw the case out and said the comparison to concentration camp medical experiments was “reprehensible”.
She also said that the employees’ lawsuit had falsely claimed the vaccines were experimental and dangerous.
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If the employees did not like the vaccine rule, they could work elsewhere, the judge added.
One of those who was fired was Jennifer Bridges, a 39-year-old nurse who was also the lead plaintiff in the case.
Ms Bridges said her director had phoned her on Tuesday to ask if she had received her vaccine yet or made any effort to do so but when she said: “absolutely not”, she was told her employment was terminated.
She said: “We all knew we were getting fired today.
“We knew unless we took that shot to come back, we were getting fired today – there was no ifs, ands, or buts.”
After more than six years at the surgical inpatient unit at Houston Methodist, Ms Bridges said she had moved to a new job providing medical care in people’s homes.
The disgruntled employees, meanwhile, are appealing against Judge Hughes’s ruling.
Ms Bridges said: “I’m hoping if we win this at a federal level, then they’re going to create laws to protect employees from having to go through this anywhere else in the country.”
Hospital systems across the US, including in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York have followed Houston Methodist in requiring employees to be vaccinated.
And in England, care home workers have been told they will also have to be vaccinated, as the frail and elderly people they care for are among the most at risk from the virus.
Back in the US, Houston Methodist’s president and chief executive Marc Boom said nearly 25,000 of the system’s more than 26,000 workers had been fully vaccinated.
He said in a note to employees: “You did the right thing. You protected our patients, your colleagues, your families and our community.
“The science proves that the vaccines are not only safe but necessary if we are going to turn the corner against COVID-19.”