Memorial Hermann Health System has made the decision that it will require every member of its workforce to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Our system’s vision is to create healthier communities, now and for generations to come; taking proactive steps to ensure our employees, physician partners, and all those around them are protected against COVID-19 is one of the safest and most effective ways we can ensure we are doing our part to help realize that vision. The evidence is clear: the vaccines are safe, and they are lifesaving. Memorial Hermann encourages all those who are still unvaccinated against COVID-19 to join us in creating a healthier future for all by making this pandemic a thing of the past.

A Message From Our President & CEO

Vaccine Safety and Policy Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Memorial Hermann has strongly encouraged its workforce to receive the COVID-19 vaccine – without a mandate – since it first became available, and we are thankful to those who are already fully vaccinated against the virus.

Given the ongoing pandemic, including the impact of the dominant and much more aggressive and contagious delta variant, we believe now is the time to implement a COVID-19 vaccination requirement.

Other factors contributing to the timing of this decision include the significant percentage of the Greater Houston population that remains unvaccinated, the relaxation of public safety measures such as masking and social distancing, and the alarming increase in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations over the past several weeks. Considering all these factors, we strongly believe that the vaccines are our best and only true protection against COVID-19 going forward.

This requirement applies to all Memorial Hermann workforce members at all locations.

Vaccine development is complex, but scientists and medical researchers have been studying coronaviruses for decades, laying the groundwork for the COVID-19 vaccines available today. Global collaboration and resources, and the urgency to end the COVID-19 pandemic, allowed vaccine manufacturers to fast-track research, clinical trials and development. However, manufacturers still followed rigorous safety and efficacy testing processes required by the FDA, making them just as safe and effective as they would be following a standard vaccine development process.

Each vaccine has undergone a stringent review process by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – which is globally respected for its scientific standards of vaccine safety, effectiveness and quality – before it received the agency’s Emergency Use Authorization. This means the FDA has determined there is substantial evidence that the vaccine is safe and effective in preventing a COVID-19 infection, particularly infection leading to hospitalization or death. In addition to clinical trials, we now have data gathered from more than 330 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to date in the United States. Both the trials and the data from actual use clearly demonstrate that the vaccines are both safe and effective.

It is a common misconception that vaccines prevent individuals from contracting an illness. Vaccines train the body’s immune system to recognize and effectively fight viruses and bacteria. When the body is exposed to a virus after being vaccinated against it, it is immediately ready to fight the illness. Because the body can respond more quickly, you are less likely to experience symptoms of the illness, especially severe and life-threatening ones.

Based on clinical trials and observations following the administration of hundreds of millions of doses, we know the COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from the virus – including new strains of the virus such as the delta variant. The populations who continue to face severe illness and death from COVID-19 are those that are unvaccinated.

Yes. While doctors do not yet know how long you will be protected after having COVID-19, they do know it is possible to contract the virus again. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself from severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. In addition, preliminary data show that natural antibodies from a previous COVID-19 infection do not provide as much protection as the vaccines do against more contagious and aggressive strains of the virus, including the delta variant.

No. None of the vaccines currently available uses a live version of the virus, so a person who receives any of these vaccines cannot contract COVID-19 from the vaccination.

Each COVID-19 vaccine has similar potential side effects, including fatigue, headache, muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph nodes and pain at the injection site. But none of the reported side effects are serious and long-lasting, and none are nearly as serious as the long list of potential complications of COVID-19, which include hospitalization and death.

No. The COVID-19 vaccines do not affect DNA. The vaccines train the body’s immune system to recognize and fight the virus.

Yes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that pregnant women get a COVID-19 vaccine after research showed that the vaccine does not pose additional risks for mothers or babies. In addition, the CDC has stated the vaccines pose no risk for breastfeeding women or their babies. In fact, studies have shown that the COVID-19 vaccine provides protection to infants through breast milk. There is also no evidence that any vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility issues.

If you are pregnant, please speak with your healthcare provider about whether the vaccine is recommended for you. If your doctor determines you should wait to receive a vaccine, you may defer your vaccination until you are no longer pregnant.

None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently available contain fetal cells.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine did use a fetal cell line called PerC6 in production and manufacturing. PerC6 is a historic fetal cell line that dates back to a single aborted fetus in the Netherlands many decades ago. Fetal cell lines are commonly used in medical research. However, these cell lines are taken from decades-old fetal cells that replicate over many years in laboratory settings. No new fetal tissue will ever be necessary in the production of this vaccine.

The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines used a similar fetal cell line in a very early development phase to confirm efficacy but did not use the cell line in production or manufacturing. Again, it is important to note that even if a fetal cell line was used in any part of their development, the COVID-19 vaccines do not contain fetal cells.

Ingredients for the COVID-19 vaccines are listed on their FDA fact sheets:

The function of the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is commonly misunderstood and is often the source of confusion. VAERS does not function as a reporting system for adverse events caused by vaccination. In fact, VAERS cannot and does not determine whether a vaccine caused a reaction or side effect at all.

A report to VAERS means only that an adverse event occurred sometime after vaccination. If a vaccinated individual develops a headache, for example, the headache may be reported to VAERS and recorded in the VAERS database. But VAERS does not determine whether the headache was caused by the vaccine or whether it developed coincidentally.

We have real-world evidence – in addition to clinical trial data – to indicate COVID-19 vaccines are safe, and that adverse reactions to them are extremely rare. Still, the scientific and medical community is committed to continuing to evaluate all available evidence to improve understanding of these vaccines’ safety. After clinical data revealed a very rare but serious side effect experienced by some individuals after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the CDC issued a preferential recommendation for the use of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Dec. 2021.

Hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and have demonstrated that the vaccines are safe and effective. Reports of adverse events following vaccination are rare and do not necessarily mean that the vaccine caused the medical issue. According to the CDC, the following are the rare adverse events that have been reported as of July 31, 2021:

  • More than 330 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been given to date in the U.S. The mortality rate attributed to (not necessarily caused by) the COVID-19 vaccines is 0.0018%.
  • Anaphylaxis is rare, but has occurred in two to five people per million vaccinated in the U.S.
  • 1,148 cases of myocarditis/pericarditis have been reported as of July 19, 2021.

In Dec. 2021, the CDC issued a preferential recommendation for the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the U.S. (Pfizer and Moderna) over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, citing rare but serious side effects. The decision was based on additional data showing 54 cases of blood clotting, more specifically a condition known as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or TTS, after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This condition has also been documented after the AstraZeneca vaccine (not authorized in the U.S.), which, like Johnson & Johnson, uses a genetically modified cold virus (instead of mRNA) to carry instructions for making the spike protein mimicking the one on the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Of those 54 cases, 9 people died. Notably, more than 14 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been given in the U.S. as of Aug. 31, 2021, so this remains a very rare side effect, occurring at a reported rate of 3.83 per 1 million doses (with the death rate of .57 per 1 million doses). Rates of TTS were highest among females ages 30 to 39.  (Data from December 2021)

The more people who are fully vaccinated, the harder it will be for the virus to spread from person to person and mutate into other, more infectious strains such as the delta variant. The COVID-19 vaccine has proven to be highly protective against all variants so far, and states with high vaccination rates have been able to dramatically reduce hospitalizations and deaths.

Today, data show that unvaccinated populations are causing the surging spread of the virus, and we are seeing that those who are not vaccinated are overwhelmingly the ones hospitalized or dying from COVID-19. A small number of breakthrough cases have resulted in fully vaccinated individuals getting sick with COVID-19, but these cases almost never lead to severe illness.

The bottom line is that getting vaccinated is the only way to end the pandemic. It is also the only way to protect yourself and others from getting severely ill from COVID-19. The sooner we can all get vaccinated, the sooner the pandemic will end.

While Memorial Hermann strongly encourages all patients and community members to get vaccinated, we cannot require it. However, as healthcare providers, it is up to us to do everything we can to create healthy and safe environments for our patients and community members. We have an ethical duty to protect each other, and getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and others.

Yes. Memorial Hermann is far from alone in requiring employees to be vaccinated. Many well-respected businesses, universities and health systems from across the country have mandated vaccination already, and we believe many more will follow. In late July, a group of more than 60 healthcare organizations – including the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Public Health Association – issued a joint statement calling for all healthcare and long-term care employers to mandate that employees be vaccinated against COVID-19. As healthcare providers, we must lead by example and it is our moral obligation to ensure we are creating the safest environments possible for all we serve.

Yes. We all need to continue the 3 W’s – wearing a mask, watching your distance and washing your hands regularly – until we know how long the vaccine protects against the virus and we gain community control of COVID-19.

We have implemented a number of protective measures for the health and safety of our patients, workforce and community:

  • All employees, clinicians and patients are screened upon entering any Memorial Hermann facility and provided a surgical mask after clearing the screening process.
  • Employees and clinicians caring for patients are provided the recommended personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Infection prevention control best practices, including the thorough cleaning and sterilization efforts in between each and every patient visit as well as proper hand hygiene, will continue.
  • As an additional safeguard patients are being tested for COVID-19 prior to surgeries and admission to any Memorial Hermann facility, regardless of vaccination status.

In addition, we want to help make waiting for your appointment as safe as possible. We have implemented Safe Wait™, a new measure that enforces social distancing in our waiting areas. Safe Wait™ also includes staggering scheduled appointments and, when necessary, asking our patients to wait in their vehicles for their appointments.

Current and Prospective Volunteers Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

This requirement applies to all Memorial Hermann workforce members at all locations, including our volunteers.

Volunteers must be fully vaccinated or approved for an exemption by Oct. 9, 2021. Please note that if you receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, you are not considered fully vaccinated under the policy until you receive your second dose.

We recommended that you start the vaccine process as soon as possible. Volunteers who do not comply with the policy requirements by the deadline noted above will not be permitted to continue volunteering with Memorial Hermann. Volunteers will be able to continue their volunteer service, however, once they show proof of vaccine. Memorial Hermann volunteers may present proof of vaccination to the volunteer coordinator at each campus.

Volunteers who do not comply with the policy requirements by the deadline noted above will not be permitted to continue volunteering with Memorial Hermann.

Any COVID-19 vaccine currently authorized for emergency use by the FDA will be accepted. This currently includes the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines. Please note that as of Dec. 2021, based on guidance from the CDC, Memorial Hermann recommends the use of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the U.S. (Pfizer and Moderna) over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, citing rare but serious side effects.

As long as the COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for emergency use by the FDA and you can provide proof of vaccination, it will meet Memorial Hermann’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

If you received your vaccine at a Memorial Hermann facility, your compliance will be automatically recorded in our system.

If you received your vaccine elsewhere, you must present proof of vaccination to Memorial Hermann. Proof of vaccination must include the manufacturer of the vaccine, date of vaccine administration, lot number, and the location where the vaccine was administered. Volunteers must submit proof to their Volunteer Coordinator.

You can check back with the clinic, pharmacy, or hospital where you received the immunization, as they should have record of your vaccination. If that's not an option, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends contacting your state health department's immunization information system. Your info should be added to that registry when you get vaccinated.

Memorial Hermann will continue to monitor developments and follow guidance from the CDC regarding the need for COVID-19 booster vaccinations. Currently, booster shots are not required to meet the Memorial Hermann’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy.

You do not need to start over, but you will need to receive the second dose by the deadline in order to be considered fully vaccinated.

The CDC advises that you should get the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine even if you had side effects after the first dose, unless your healthcare provider tells you not to get it. If this is the case, you will need to file a medical exemption request with a documented note from your healthcare provider.

No. Once you provide Memorial Hermann with proof of vaccination, it will be recorded within our system. We recommend keeping your vaccination card in a safe place and taking a photo of it for your own record keeping.

Once vaccinated, you will qualify to receive a “Shot of Hope” badge sticker, which lets colleagues and visitors know you are vaccinated. You will also be able to experience an expedited screening process at our entrances when you arrive for work.

For the time being, all members of our workforce are required to wear masks inside our facilities, regardless of their vaccination status. As COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates change, our policies and protocols may continue to change, as needed.

No. At this time there are no exemptions for volunteers.

Job Candidates Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

This requirement applies to all Memorial Hermann workforce members at all locations. This includes all new hires.

Yes. There is no exemption for those working remotely or for those who do not work directly with patients in non-clinical settings. Getting vaccinated helps protect our entire workforce and our community.

While the job may not require you to have contact with patients, it is critical that we keep our workforce healthy. Further, as members of the healthcare community, it is our obligation to do all we can to prevent further spread of the virus in Greater Houston. The more people who are vaccinated, the better chance we have of ending the pandemic.

Any COVID-19 vaccine currently authorized for emergency use by the FDA will be accepted. Please note that as of Dec. 2021, based on guidance from the CDC, Memorial Hermann recommends the use of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the U.S. (Pfizer and Moderna) over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, citing rare but serious side effects.

Yes. You may be vaccinated with any of the vaccines currently authorized under emergency use by the FDA. With that said, based on guidance from the CDC, Memorial Hermann recommends the use of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the U.S. (Pfizer and Moderna) over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, citing rare but serious side effects.

Yes. If offered the role, you will have the opportunity to get vaccinated or apply for an exemption.

Yes. Members of our workforce who are granted an exemption will be required to complete bi-weekly COVID-19 testing and wear a mask at all times.