About 700 workers are losing their jobs at Mayo Clinic for failing to comply with a vaccine mandate policy at the Rochester-based health system.

Employees had until Monday to either receive their first shots or obtain an exemption for medical or religious reasons. Mayo said it granted the majority of exemption requests.

The clinic introduced its policy last year, saying it was necessary to provide the safest possible environment at Mayo, which treats patients who come from around the world for complex care.

"While final numbers are still not available, nearly 99% of staff across all Mayo Clinic locations have complied with the required vaccination program, meaning they have been vaccinated or have received medical or religious exemptions," the clinic said in a statement.

"This means that approximately 1% of staff across all locations will be released from employment as a result of the required vaccination program. This is comparable to what other health care organizations have experienced in implementing similar vaccine requirement programs. "

Vaccine mandates have been controversial across the country. Many large health care employers have forged ahead in implementing the rules, choosing to mitigate risks to their patients.

In December, Minneapolis-based Allina Health reported that 99.8% of its roughly 27,000 workers were either vaccinated or received vaccine-mandate exemptions. Allina said it has parted ways with 53 people.

Fewer than 1% of employees at Sanford Health, which runs hospitals and clinics across the Dakotas and greater Minnesota, were suspended in December for not starting their vaccine series or receiving an approved exemption.

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments over the Biden administration's push for vaccine mandates both at health care facilities and for all employers with 100 or more workers. In the meantime, many Minnesota employers have put their mandates on hold.

Mayo Clinic is Minnesota's largest employer. It also operates hospitals and clinics in Arizona, Florida, Iowa and Wisconsin.

The clinic required non-exempt workers by Jan. 3 to receive at least one dose of vaccine and not be overdue for a second shot, if they were receiving a two-dose vaccine. Staff continued to get first doses through Monday in order to be compliant, Mayo said.

"While Mayo Clinic is saddened to lose valuable employees, we need to take all steps necessary to keep our patients, workforce, visitors and communities safe," the clinic said in the statement. "If individuals released from employment choose to get vaccinated at a later date, the opportunity exists for them to apply and return to Mayo Clinic for future job openings.

"Based on science and data, it's clear that vaccination keeps people out of the hospital and saves lives. That's true for everyone in our communities — and it's especially true for the many patients with serious or complex diseases who seek care at Mayo Clinic each day."