The prestigious nonprofit Mayo Clinic is firing 700 employees after they declined to comply with the organisation’s vaccine mandate.
Staffers had been given until Monday to either get the first dose of the vaccine or obtain a medical or religious exemption. If they had received their first dose, they were asked to not delay getting their second.
“Nearly 99 per cent of employees across all Mayo Clinic locations complied with Mayo’s required Covid-19 vaccination program by the January 3 deadline,” the organisation told NBC News in a statement, concerning their roughly 73,000 employees.
They added that around one per cent – roughly 700 workers – would be “released from employment”.
The Mayo Clinic also said that the majority of requests for medical or religious exemptions were granted.
“While Mayo Clinic is saddened to lose valuable employees, we need to take all steps necessary to keep our patients, workforce, visitors and communities safe,” the clinic added.
“If individuals released from employment choose to get vaccinated at a later date, the opportunity exists for them to apply and return to Mayo Clinic for future job openings,” the organisation said.
The Mayo Clinic has faced criticism from some because of its mandate, with 38 lawmakers signing a letter to the nonprofit, requesting that the directive be dismissed. The letter was organised by Republican Minnesota State Representative Peggy Bennett. The message states that the legislators communicated with “a large number of highly concerned Mayo employees”.
“This top-down, heavy-handed, all-or-none employee policy does not fit the reputation or image we know the Mayo Clinic to have,” they said.
“Your amazing employees stepped up under unimaginable pandemic conditions over the last year and a half, exposing themselves and their families to a then mostly unknown virus and working long, gruelling hours to take care of sick patients,” the lawmakers added. “Many of your employees were sickened by the virus at that time. They did all this willingly to serve Mayo Clinic patients and the people of Minnesota. They did so for all these months without the protection of any vaccine.”
While the legislators said they weren’t “opposed to vaccinations,” they added that “people deserve to make this decision based on the benefits and risks for themselves and not coerced or forced into doing so by threat of losing one’s job”.
The Mayo Clinic referred back to its statement when asked to respond to the letter from the lawmakers.
“Based on science and data, it’s clear that vaccination keeps people out of the hospital and saves lives,” they said. “That’s true for everyone in our communities — and it’s especially true for the many patients with serious or complex diseases who seek care at Mayo Clinic each day.”
As the highly transmissible Omicron variant of Covid-19 spreads around the country, the clinic urged “all who are not vaccinated to get vaccinated as soon as possible. And if you are eligible for a booster, Mayo Clinic urges you to get a booster as soon as possible to help protect your health and the health of everyone around you”.
The seven-day average of daily new cases reached more than 553,000 on 4 January, with the Centers for Disease Control and Protection announcing on Tuesday that 95.4 per cent of new cases in the US last week were made up by the Omicron variant.
“There’s been so much talk of just saying, ‘oh, it’s just so much less severe. It’s cold-like.’ Sure, maybe it’s similar to some of those things in terms of severity. But this virus is so much more transmissible than all of those things,” Dr Shaun Truelove at Johns Hopkins University told CBS News. “Just by sheer numbers, we’re going to get a lot of hospitalisations.”
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