Froedtert Health, a health care system headquartered in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, is withdrawing religious and medical exemptions held by employees who had originally refused to get the messenger RNA (mRNA) COVID-19 shots. The company informed its employees that they must now get vaccinated with the recently approved Novavax’s COVID vaccine NVX-CoV2373 (also known as “Nuvaxovid” and “Covovax”) or face termination.1
On July 13, 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for Novavax to distribute NVX-CoV2373 for use by individuals 18 years of age and older.2
Employer Says Novavax’s COVID Vaccine Ingredients Do Not Conflict with Religious Beliefs
Froedtert Health said many of its employees filed COVID religious exemptions on the basis that mRNA COVID shots used fetal cell lines or tissue to develop the product. The employer e-mailed those employees that they are unable to claim religious or medical exemptions” as a reason not to be vaccinated against COVID since NVX-CoV2373, which is protein subunit vaccine and fetal cell lines or tissue were not used in its development.3
Alison Chartan, a spokesperson for Novavax, said:
No human fetal-derived cell lines or tissue, including HEK293 cells, are used in the development, manufacture or production of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373.4
A spokesperson for Froedtert Health said:
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staff were provided the opportunity to apply for an exemption after learning the previous exemption kept on file was no longer valid.”5
Employees React to New COVID Vaccine Mandate at Froedtert Health
Employees at Froedtert Health said that the ingredients in the vaccine are of concern as well. An employee who wanted to remain anonymous said that the new COVID shot mandate is going to further aggravate the nursing shortage and negatively impact patient care and safety.6
WISN 12 News reporter Caroline Reinwald asked the employee:
The fact that this new vaccine doesn’t use, or says it doesn’t use, any cells from aborted fetuses, does that go against your religion still?”
The employee responded:
Yes, just because it’s my body my temple. God is within us. If we’re uncomfortable, or not sure about something, then we shouldn’t do it. I have a lot of thinking to do. I carry the health insurance for our family. I have a week to decide if I feel comfortable taking this vaccine otherwise I honestly don’t know. I don’t know if any other health care facilities in this area even take exemptions.7
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1 Shastri D, Van Egeren J. Froedtert Hospital says employees who claimed COVID vaccine exemption must get new option that does not use fetal cell lines. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sept. 8, 2022.
2 U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes Emergency Use of Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine, Adjuvanted. July 13, 2022.
3 Shastri D, Van Egeren J. Froedtert Hospital says employees who claimed COVID vaccine exemption must get new option that does not use fetal cell lines. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sept. 8, 2022.
4 Tin A. FDA authorizes Novavax as new alternative to mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. CBS News Jul. 13, 2022.
5 Reinwald C, Wainscott K. Froedtert: employee religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccine are no longer legitimate. WISN 12 News Sept. 8, 2022.