Sep. 18, 2021 -- A hospital system in Arkansas is requiring employees to confirm that they won’t use common medications — such as Tylenol, Tums, and Preparation H — to receive a religious exemption for the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Becker’s Hospital Review.

The Conway Regional Health System has required the flu shot annually as part of employment, but managers saw a spike in vaccine exemption requests for the COVID-19 vaccine.

“This was significantly disproportionate to what we’ve seen with the influenza vaccine,” Matt Troup, president and CEO of the health system, told Becker’s.

The majority of requests cited the use of fetal cell lines in the development of vaccines as part of the religious exemption. The practice uses cells grown in labs to test many new vaccines and drugs, including common antacids and cold medications.

“Thus, we provided a religious attestation form for those individuals requesting a religious exemption,” Troup said.

The hospital’s form includes a list of 30 common medications that used fetal cell lines during research and development. The list includes acetaminophen, albuterol, aspirin, ibuprofen, Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, Tums, Lipitor, Senokot, Motrin, Maalox, Ex-Lax, Benadryl, Sudafed, Preparation H, Claritin, Prilosec, and Zoloft.

Employees are asked to attest that they “truthfully acknowledge and affirm that my sincerely held religious belief is consistent and true” and that they won’t use the medications listed.

Health system administrators want to “educate staff who might have requested an exemption without understanding the full scope of how fetal cells are used in testing and development in common medicines,” Troup said.

Employees who don’t sign the form will be given a temporary exemption, he said. If they don’t receive a vaccine or full exemption, they can face disciplinary action, including termination.

About 5% of the hospital system’s 1,830 employees have filed for a religious or medical exemption, Troup told KARK, an NBC affiliate in Arkansas. The rest of the employees are partially or fully vaccinated.

“A lot of this, I believe, is a hesitancy about the vaccine,” he said. “That’s a separate issue than a religious exemption.”

Show Sources

Becker’s Hospital Review: “Prove it, hospital asks unvaccinated employees claiming religious exemption.”

KARK: “Arkansas hospital lets staff seek vaccine exemption, as long as they don’t use other meds tested on fetal cell lines.”

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