Froedtert COVID vaccine religious exemption changes prompt resignations

Froedtert employees had until Wednesday, Sep. 21 to get their first coronavirus vaccine dose or be considered to have "voluntarily resigned." 

Vaccine requirements are common in hospital systems, and Wednesday, Froedtert employees resigned over them. This all centers around the idea of religious exemptions.

Froedtert requires employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Some employees had religious exemptions based on the way the earliest vaccines were developed. However, Froedtert said the FDA-approved Novavax COVID-19 vaccine "eliminates" conflicts for some employees with religious exemptions. 

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The Novavax is not an mRNA vaccine and does not use fetus cell lines. This is why Froedtert said employee religious and medical exemptions based on mRNA would be expiring Wednesday. Employees had the past month to apply for new exemptions. 

For the past year, Taylor Green has worked as a histology technician treating skin cancer patients at Froedtert Hospital.

"There's only three of us in the entire Froedtert system, so they are going to lose out on one of those three, which seems like a big deal to me," said Green.

Green is a member of the Universal Life Church. She said they have one belief, and that is to abide by what is right.

Green emailed the hospital quoting Bible verses, claiming the contents of the COVID-19 vaccines are against her religion. The hospital denied her, and she had until Wednesday to get her first dose.

"I’m choosing to step away from Froedtert – that doesn’t accept their employees for the way that they are," said Green.

Green said Novavax's use of moth cells to create a protein is still against her religious beliefs.

"The biggest thing in our religion is you have to do what’s right," said Green. "That’s the main thing we preach."

Green said she is now looking for a new job.

"This was going to be my forever job, and it’s really hard on the team and everybody there was really shocked that it happened," said Green.

According to Froedtert, if you did get the first shot by Sept. 21, you have until Oct. 5 to get the second dose. If not, you will have to resign by Oct. 19.

Statement from Froedtert

"Froedtert Health requires staff and providers be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as a federal requirement that is monitored for compliance. We join many other health systems around southeast Wisconsin and the U.S. that have made vaccination a condition of employment.

The Novavax vaccination for COVID-19 is now available. This protein-based vaccination option eliminates conflicts for those staff with religious or medical exemptions caused by mRNA-based vaccines and other concerns. Since those staff are now eligible for a vaccination that does not conflict with their religious beliefs or medical situation, their exemption will expire.

This affects less than 1% of our staff. We continue to allow valid medical exemptions and sincerely held religious exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine. Impacted staff were provided the opportunity to apply for an exemption after learning the previous exemption kept on file was no longer valid.

Froedtert Health respects the right of staff and providers to engage in activity protected by state and federal law."