Several health systems in the region including Essentia Health and Allina Health have made the decision to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for staff; at this time, Welia Health and Mille Lacs Health do not. 

In the first week of August, both Essentia and Allina announced their organizations will implement a policy to make the COVID-19 vaccine a condition of employment starting Oct. 1. 

Essentia has clinic and hospital locations in Hinckley, Sandstone and Moose Lake. Allina Health has clinics and hospitals in Cambridge and Isanti. Welia has locations in Mora, Hinckley and Pine City. 

Welia Health CEO Randy Ulseth said at this time Welia Health is not mandating COVID-19 vaccination for staff; however that may change in the future and their management team has discussed other options to fight the virus such as mandatory regular COVID-19 testing for the unvaccinated. 

Ulseth said that approximately 70% of all Welia staff has been vaccinated for COVID-19, including volunteers and interns. Among practitioners, the number is closer to 90%. 

Ulseth stressed that the same precautions that were implemented at the start of the pandemic are still being followed such as wearing personal protective equipment including masks. Ulseth noted that the only difference is they are no longer facing a severe shortage of N95 masks. 

Ulseth said Welia’s staff and facilities have been quite busy. While some of their activity is in treating COVID-19 patients, Ulseth said the majority of what keeps them occupied is tending to regular health care needs. 

FDA fully approves Pfizer vaccine

On Monday, Aug. 23, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine has been known as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, and will now be marketed as Comirnaty, for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. 

“The FDA’s approval of this vaccine is a milestone as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. While this and other vaccines have met the FDA’s rigorous, scientific standards for emergency use authorization, as the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product,” stated Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. in a press release.

“While millions of people have already safely received COVID-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated. Today’s milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S.”

The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization, including for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.

Since Dec. 11, 2020, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine has been available under EUA in individuals 16 years of age and older, and the authorization was expanded to include those 12 through 15 years of age on May 10, 2021.

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