Vaccine mandates for health care workers might backfire

With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surging, health care companies are taking numerous measures to control the virus. Those measures include encouraging workers to get vaccinated. The Mayo Clinic, for example, is calling for all workers to get vaccinated or go through a one-hour education session.

Other companies, however, have chosen to go a different path –– vaccine mandates. On August 10, Hennepin Healthcare made the following announcement;

Hennepin Healthcare is proud of our team’s commitment to the people we serve – a commitment that has driven one of the highest employee COVID-19 vaccination rates among metro hospitals. As we watch with increasing concern the continued spread and mutation of the virus, we are aligning with other healthcare systems and CDC recommendations for healthcare personnel by making COVID-19 vaccination a requirement for all team members, who must receive their first dose of vaccine by October 1 and their second dose in a two-dose series by November 1.

The COVID-19 vaccination requirement applies to all Hennepin Healthcare System employees, including those who are working remotely, as well as others working within our facilities. Employees may request an exemption from vaccination for limited medical reasons consistent with CDC recommendations or sincerely held religious beliefs.

Vaccine mandates might backfire

In some states, vaccine mandates have already culminated in the termination or resignation of health care workers. In Texas, for example, Houston Methodist lost 153 workers who did not comply with a vaccine mandate.

Some health care workers in Minnesota have already rallied against these mandates, which points to the likelihood that the system might also lose workers if the issue progresses. This has serious implications, though.

With cases and hospitalization surging due to the Delta variant, and the health care industry already facing worker shortages, Minnesota hospitals are going to need all the resources they can get, including health care workers. Vaccines mandates that result in termination or furloughing of workers will only get in the way of handling the virus as well as providing all other types of health care services.

Of course, health care companies are private institutions that are free to operate as they wish. But it is important to recognize the potentially costly trade-off to such mandates, whether they be imposed by the state or private companies themselves.