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Minnesota nurses union opts for neutrality on vaccine mandates

Region's largest nurses association says membership is not unified around support or opposition to hospitals requiring COVID-19 shots.

Vaccine
A COVID-19 vaccination is prepared to be administered. Forum News Service file photo
Forum News Service file photo
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ROCHESTER, Minn. — Despite a wave of calls for vaccination mandates within health care, the Minnesota Nurses Association says it does not take a position in support or opposed to vaccine mandates for its members.

The region's largest labor organization for registered nurses released the statement Wednesday evening , Sept. 8, following its review of a member survey.

"After reviewing the results of the survey and the wide variety of member positions on these issues, the MNA Board does not believe members are unified around any one position either for or against the mandatory vaccination programs," the release stated.

An attached statement supported the vaccines and emphasized the need for COVID-19 control methods, but said the group believes mandates "will continue to exacerbate staffing shortages."

"The Minnesota Nurses Association believes that voluntary vaccination programs along with other essential infection control measures such as optimal personal protective equipment, contact tracing, rapid testing and results, adequate staffing, hygiene, environmental controls, isolation policies, and paid COVID leave for healthcare workers who need to quarantine are the most effective strategy for a healthy population," the statement read, "and that all those who can be vaccinated should be."

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The statement goes on to say that hospitals and other health care institutions have a responsibility to provide these safety measures for employees and patients.

"Unfortunately, hospitals across our state and country have abandoned that responsibility in lieu of cost cutting measures that have left our facilities unprepared for the current crisis we are facing. After years of deliberate under staffing, increasing threats of workplace violence and lack of autonomy over their profession, the same healthcare workers who have been caring for us in our darkest hours are exhausted and leaving the profession early or for less demanding work."

The position leaves the MNA outside of a series of movements to make vaccination a condition of employment for front-line workers.

In July, the American Medical Association and a coalition of over 50 medical specialties signed a letter calling for vaccine mandates among health care workers.

In August, the Biden administration announced that all nursing homes would be required to get their employees vaccinated in order to receive Medicaid or Medicare funds.

The state's largest hospital systems have all announced plans to either require vaccination as a condition of employment or, in the case of Mayo Clinic, impose demands on those who fail to become vaccinated.

The percentage of nurses who decline to become vaccinated for COVID-19 in Minnesota is not known.

In a National Nurses Association survey taken in early July, 88% of nurses surveyed nationally said they are vaccinated or plan to do so, with 59% supporting mandates. Respondents cited long-term safety questions as their reason for uncertainty.

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The vaccines were studied in clinical trials for two months, the longest any widely noted safety concerns have arisen for a vaccine, and the effects of millions of doses given have been monitored by regulators for over nine months.

The MNA has 22,000 members in Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa.

Paul John Scott is the health reporter for NewsMD and the Rochester Post Bulletin. He is a novelist and was an award-winning magazine journalist for 15 years prior to joining the FNS in 2019.
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