- CMS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are requiring that all provider facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs vaccinate their workers, a move likely to encompass a significant chunk of the nation's healthcare workforce. The action comes as the delta variant of the coronavirus continues to lead to rising numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.
- The announcement is part of a Biden administration push to get large employers to get their workers vaccinated. As part of a multi-pronged effort to increase vaccination rates, businesses with 100 or more employees must require vaccines, Biden announced Thursday. The administration previously announced all federal workers and those who work with contractors be vaccinated or face disciplinary action.
- Separately, an alliance of 14 industry groups including America's Essential Hospitals and the Alliance of Community Health Plans on Thursday said they would also mandate their workers be vaccinated in order to return to work.
Since vaccines became available earlier this year for COVID-19, many hospitals and healthcare systems have been struggling with getting their workers vaccinated. Some providers have used initiatives such as targeted mass emails to encourage employees to do so. Others have mandated vaccinations, a trend that has been picking up momentum over the summer.
Houston Methodist was among the first to mandate its workers be vaccinated, and won an early important legal victory when a judge threw out a suit by workers.
Still, research by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds significant numbers of front-line and other healthcare workers with no intentions of getting the vaccine, mostly based on concerns about safety and effectiveness.
The American Hospital Association has said it backs hospitals that support mandatory vaccination for its workers. The 14 groups with the latest pledge said they'd require the jab "as a condition" of coming into work.
The widespread balking against vaccination has prompted the Biden administration to reset its pandemic strategy, and now it is moving toward mandates such as the one just announced by CMS and the CDC.
“There is no question that staff, across any healthcare setting, who remain unvaccinated pose both direct and indirect threats to patient safety and population health," Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
According to a joint statement issued by the two agencies, nursing home facilities where 75% or less of staff is vaccinated “experience higher rates of preventable COVID infection” and is seeing rates lower than that also at hospitals and dialysis facilities.
“We know that those working in healthcare want to do what is best for their patients in order to keep them safe,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.
CMS said it would issue a final interim rule on the vaccination requirement next month. It will be subject to a public comment period.