Mayo Clinic, VA Medical Center to require COVID-19 vaccines for staff

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — Mayo Clinic Health System and the Department of Veterans Affairs both announced Monday that the organizations will require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for the health of their patients.

Mayo Clinic is requiring all employees by Sept. 17, while the VA is requiring all medical employees to be vaccinated within eight weeks.

“We are proud of our staff’s high vaccination rates and are grateful that the vast majority have embraced the opportunity to get vaccinated,” says Dr. Gianrico Farrugia, Mayo Clinic’s president and CEO. “Our patients expect to be safe when they come to Mayo Clinic, and we need to do everything we can to protect everybody.”

Staff at Mayo Clinic, regardless of where they work, will need to be fully vaccinated or participate in a declination process. Staff who decline to be vaccinated for COVID-19 must complete education modules and will be required to wear masks and socially distance when on campus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that 99.5% of hospital deaths in the U.S. are from unvaccinated individuals. Those who are unvaccinated also are at higher risk of transmitting disease to others.

“Getting vaccinated for COVID-19 is the single most important thing all of us can do to protect our patients, visitors, colleagues and communities,” Dr. Farrugia says.

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough said COVID-19 vaccines will be mandatory for Title 38 VA health care personnel, which includes physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, registered nurses, physician assistants, expanded-function dental auxiliaries and chiropractors, who work in Veterans Health Administration facilities.

“We’re mandating vaccines for Title 38 employees because it’s the best way to keep Veterans safe, especially as the Delta variant spreads across the country,” McDonough said. “Whenever a Veteran or VA employee sets foot in a VA facility, they deserve to know that we have done everything in our power to protect them from COVID-19. With this mandate, we can once again make — and keep — that fundamental promise.”

In recent weeks, VA has lost four employees to COVID-19 — all of whom were unvaccinated, according to the VA. At least three of those employees died because of the increasingly prevalent Delta variant. There has also been an outbreak among unvaccinated employees and trainees at a VA Law Enforcement Training Center, the third such outbreak during the pandemic.

Tomah Health continues to encourage vaccination.

“While we highly encourage our employees to get the COVID vaccine, Tomah Health officials have not made a decision requiring hospital staff to be vaccinated at this time,” said a spokesperson.