The Mayo Clinic fired roughly 700 employees who failed to comply with the nonprofit medical center’s mandatory Covid-19 vaccination policy.
Workers at the Mayo Clinic had been given until Monday to get their first dose of a vaccine or obtain a medical or religious exemption to the rule. They were also expected not to delay on receiving a second dose if they had already gotten the first jab.
Hundreds of employees failed to meet those requirements and were let go, the Mayo Clinic said in a statement shared with NBC News on Wednesday.
“Nearly 99 percent of employees across all Mayo Clinic locations complied with Mayo’s required Covid-19 vaccination program by the Jan. 3 deadline,” the clinic said of its staff, which consists of around 73,000 workers.
The Mayo Clinic said approximately 1 percent of its staff, or around 700 people, would be “released from employment.”
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The clinic added that the majority of medical or religious exemption requests made by workers 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 said.
However, it said fired employees could have the chance to return to the medical center if they choose to comply with its vaccine mandate.
“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,” it said.
The Mayo Clinic has faced some backlash over its policy, with 38 lawmakers signing a letter to the hospital last month asking it to ax the rule.
In the letter, which was orchestrated by Peggy Bennett, a Republican member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, lawmakers said they had heard from “a large number of highly concerned Mayo employees” who raised concerns about the policy move.
“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, grueling hours to take care of sick patients,” they said. “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.”
The lawmakers said they were not “opposed to vaccinations” but said “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.”
Asked to respond to the letter, the Mayo Clinic referred NBC News to its initial statement.
In the statement, the clinic said that “based on science and data, it’s clear that vaccination keeps people out of the hospital and saves lives.”
“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,” it said.
In the midst of the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant, the Mayo Clinic said it “urges 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.”