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Minnesota Republicans ask Mayo Clinic to drop employee vaccine mandate

The letter spurred frustration from Democrats who said the call out to Mayo was 'particularly disturbing.'

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A protester holds a sign against vaccine mandates during a march through downtown Rochester, Minnesota, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Joe Ahlquist

ST. PAUL — A group of 38 Minnesota Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, highlighted a letter they sent to the head of the Mayo Clinic, urging the health system to drop its vaccination mandate for employees in the wake of other groups around the country dropping their requirements.

The lawmakers on Monday, Dec. 13, issued a news release pointing to the correspondence and said Mayo should drop its employee vaccination requirement after federal courts placed a pause on a federal mandate. The federal rule that was set to take effect this month said facilities could lose Medicare and Medicaid dollars if their workers weren't immunized against the disease.

"This top-down, heavy-handed, all-or-none employee policy does not fit the reputation or image we know the Mayo Clinic to have," state Rep. Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, wrote in the letter, dated Dec. 8 . "Mayo now has the opportunity to take the lead on this issue by reverting back to its original reasonable vaccine policy which allows for medical, religious, and consciousness opt-outs for its employees."

Bennett wrote that the group didn't oppose COVID-19 vaccinations but believed some had valid concerns about the immunizations. And she said the mandate could worsen staffing shortages in Minnesota health care facilities.

A Mayo Clinic leader last week told a Minnesota Senate committee that vaccine requirements at the health system level hadn't resulted in any resignations there. He said many other staffing issues, like burnout, had become more common amid the pandemic.

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The push to have Mayo stop enforcing the mandate comes as Minnesota reported a continued surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state. Health care leaders on Wednesday, Dec. 15, urged Minnesotans to take precautions like getting vaccinated and boosted, wearing masks in public settings and avoiding large social gatherings to prevent contracting COVID-19.

“Our patients with and without COVID are suffering and dying because of the lack of access to hospitals,” Dr. Alice Mann said. “Part of our training as family physicians is to help patients avoid illness through preventive care. The crushing reality is that the large majority of the hospitalized COVID patients could have been prevented with vaccinations.”

Democrats said the GOP lawmakers involved were "working to disrupt vaccination efforts" with their comments.

"Their attack on Mayo Clinic is particularly disturbing," Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, said in a news release on Wednesday. "It’s past time for Republicans to abandon extremism and help fight this threat to our public health.”

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email dferguson@forumcomm.com

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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