Allina Health gave its 27,000 employees until Oct. 1 to get a COVID vaccine, or obtain an approved exemption. Those that didn't risked losing their jobs.
So far, that amounts to just 53 people — about 0.2% of the health care system's workforce.
Allina Health Director of Government Relations Kristen McHenry provided the latest figure during a Minnesota Senate committee meeting Wednesday. The topic during that portion of the Human Services Reform Finance and Policy Committee meeting agenda was the impact of workforce shortages on hospital bed availability.
As McHenry told committee chair Sen. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka), Allina Health's 99.8% compliance rate includes those who have been fully vaccinated, as well as those who have secured a medical or religious exemption.
She called the workforce shortage a "long-term" issue and said the current strain on resources was caused by a "cumulative impact" during the pandemic, and is not the result of a single factor. (As this Fortune piece points out, experts were predicting a significant shortage before COVID-19 was on anyone's radar.)
Allina Health, McHenry said, believes "widespread vaccination efforts remain critical to suppressing the virus."
Also testifying during the committee meeting was Dr. James Watson with the Mayo Clinic. Mayo, like Allina, established a COVID vaccine mandate for employees. Those who are not fully vaccinated or have not obtained an exemption by Jan. 3 could lose their jobs.
Watson said as of Dec. 8, nobody with Mayo Clinic has lost their job due to the mandate. He admitted terminations "will unfortunately come" eventually, but said Mayo is hoping continued outreach and education will minimize whatever losses come.
Either way, Mayo is prepared "to absorb the impacts of these vaccine requirements on staffing," he said.
"We want to retain all of our staff," he said, later continuing. "That being said, our highest obligation is to do everything in our power to keep our patients safe."
He cited the "complex medical needs" many Mayo patients have, saying those individuals "deserve and expect that we will provide the safest heath care environment that we can."
Addressing concerns Abeler highlighted about employees who had their exemption requests denied, Watson stated the review teams are looking for a "sincerely held religious belief." Rejected exemptions have included things copy-pasted from the internet, he said, or featured arguments focused on non-religious or political beliefs.
To this point, the majority of those Mayo employees who have requested an exemption have gotten it, he added.
The number of health care workers quitting or being fired due to COVID-related vaccine mandates has been relatively low. Both Becker Hospital Review and Fierce Healthcare have lists detailing resignations or dismissals from various health care systems. A few have reported losing as much as 5% of their workforce, but most say the loss has been 1% or less.