Mayo employees not in compliance with new vaccine program terminated

Published 6:42 pm Tuesday, January 4, 2022

By Alex Guerrero

The deadline passed after Jan. 3, and any Mayo Clinic employee who hadn’t received a first COVID-19 vaccine dose faced job termination, all the way from the children’s neurosurgeon to the cafeteria staffer.

Mayo Clinic said in a statement this week that the health care system transitioned to the required COVID-19 vaccination program in October in an effort to recognize its primary value: its patients. 

Employees had to become compliant with the program by Monday, meaning they had to receive at least one dose of vaccine (and are not overdue for a second shot, for Moderna and Pfizer), or have received a medical or religious exemption.

The hospital system allowed medical or religious exemptions and said the majority of exemption requests were approved.

“Based on science and data, it’s clear that vaccination keeps people out of the hospital and saves lives,” the statement said. “That’s true for everyone in our communities — and it’s especially true for the many patients with serious or complicated diseases who seek care at the Mayo Clinic each day.”  

That decision was concerning for Rep. Peggy Bennett, who — along with 37 other state lawmakers — penned a letter to the clinic urging them to end the COVID-19 mandate that required their workers to get a shot.

That didn’t happen.

“They’re not giving employees the option,” she said.

That vaccination-or-termination ultimatum troubled her.

“If vaccinated and unvaccinated catch this and spread this, then why are we firing the very people we need in our hospitals and nursing homes,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Bennett cited previous studies of vaccinated individuals being able to transmit the virus to both unvaccinated and vaccinated. In arguing to halt the mandate, she cited studies of cruise ships with 100% vaccination rates experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.

She argued those employees were needed because of shortages in hospitals and nursing homes.

And even though the hospital is a private company (which does receive state funding), she argued Mayo should change their rules because those vaccination mandates affect health care.

“If we don’t have enough doctors and nurses and all the other employees it takes to run a hospital, then we suddenly have no care,” she said.  

And while she was critical of the new vaccine mandate, she was quick to praise the hospital’s goal of keeping everyone — patients, health care providers and their other staff — safe.

“But my point is, and it’s really clear from the data and the studies, that vaccinated people are spreading this as much as unvaccinated people,” she said. “So it comes down to why are they firing people over not being vaccinated when it has nothing to do with keeping people safe.”

Bennett herself is pro-vaccine, but she’s also pro-choice.

“Medical treatment should be a choice,” she said.

And it was Mayo’s choice to require vaccinations, she said, that put the health care system at risk with their decision to fire employees who wouldn’t vaccinate. 

Due to confidentiality agreements, Mayo could not provide the names of anyone local who lost their job due to the policy change.