Allina Health and Fairview Health Services join the Mayo Clinic and other major Minnesota health care providers in requiring COVID-19 vaccination for employment.
At Allina, employees, students, volunteers and staff need to receive at least one dose of vaccine before Oct. 1 with limited exemptions for medical or religious reasons.
“Ensuring that our employees are vaccinated not only sends an important signal to the community that we embrace safety, but that we continue to take every possible step to bring about the end of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said John Misa, vice president and clinical officer of Minneapolis-based Allina, which, along with Fairview, runs a broad network of hospitals and clinics in the Twin Cities metro.
Over 73 percent of Allina employees have already been vaccinated against COVID-19; the decision to require full inoculation was made with the recent rise in cases driven by the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus.
On Tuesday, the Minnesota Department of Health reported 1,667 new cases and four more Minnesota deaths linked to the coronavirus.
Masks are required in all Allina facilities, and a mandate has also been put in place for employees to receive the influenza vaccine by Jan. 1.
Minneapolis-based M Health Fairview, with 77 percent of employees already vaccinated, also will enforce a mandate due to the current circumstance. Employees, students, volunteers and contractors will be required to receive the COVID-19 and influenza vaccines before Oct. 31. Exemptions can be made for medical and religious reasons.
A coalition of 56 national medical organizations — including the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Nurses Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics — recently called for mandatory vaccinations among health care providers.
The Minnesota Hospital Association on Tuesday said that vaccines are encouraged, but any policies put in place should be determined by each organization.
“Guided by science, our members have been strongly encouraging all staff members to receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” said Emily Lowether, communications director for the association. “MHA supports each of our members in their determination of vaccine policies and procedures based on local factors and circumstances.”
Rochester-based Mayo Clinic recently announced that all employees must be vaccinated for COVID-19 or undergo added training and agree to special mitigation protocols that include social distancing and masking while on campus. Sept. 17 is Mayo’s cutoff date for employees.
Sanford Health, based in Sioux Falls, S.D., but with multiple locations in western Minnesota, became the first hospital system in the region to mandate vaccination for employees, beginning Nov. 1.
Meanwhile, employees of Episcopal Homes, which operates several assisted living and senior housing facilities in St. Paul, will soon all be vaccinated against COVID-19, the nonprofit says.
Episcopal Homes CEO Marvin Plakut said in a statement that his employees will be required to be immunized by Sept. 1, noting that the coronavirus is especially dangerous to the elderly and people with pre-existing health conditions.
Plakut told Minnesota Public Radio that Episcopal Homes has “a moral obligation to do this” in light of the threat posed by the delta variant, which can be significantly blunted via vaccination.
“The science is saying that the vaccine is the best guard against getting COVID-19,” Plakut said.
Eighty percent of Episcopal Homes staffers are already vaccinated.