Novant Health spokeswoman Megan Rivers tweeted Monday that almost 200 of the suspended workers, including those who had submitted approved exemptions, received their first dose by Friday. The hospital confirmed that the rest of the suspended employees who did not comply were fired, although the exact number of those dismissed was not specified.

“We stand by our decision to make the vaccine mandatory as we have a responsibility to protect our patients, visitors and team members, regardless of where they are in our health system,” Novant Health said in a statement. “We couldn’t be prouder of our team members who made the choice to receive the covid-19 vaccine and remain part of our team at Novant Health.”

Rivers told The Washington Post that more than 99 percent of the system’s roughly 35,000 employees have followed the mandatory vaccination program. She said in a statement that Novant Health was “thrilled” those who chose to be vaccinated have given patients and visitors “better protection against COVID-19 regardless of where they are in our health system.”

“We agree with the North Carolina Healthcare Association, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and many other health care systems in the region that a mandatory vaccine program is in the best interest of public health,” the health system said in a news release. “Simply put, it is essential to ensure the safety of our patients, team members and communities.”

“When they put the mandate out there, one thing I knew for sure was I was not gonna take the shot. So, I put in for a religious exemption and got denied,” Rushing told the outlet. “Who decided my religious exemption, the wording used was not good enough? It wasn’t as good as someone else’s? That just feels like discrimination and I didn’t appreciate it.”

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