Required COVID-19 Vaccination for Health Care Workers
The Biden-Harris Administration is requiring COVID-19 vaccination of eligible staff at health care facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The emergency regulation issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today protects those fighting this virus on the front lines while also delivering assurances to individuals and their families that they will be protected when seeking care.
“Ensuring patient safety and protection from COVID-19 has been the focus of our efforts in combatting the pandemic and the constantly evolving challenges we’re seeing,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “Today’s action addresses the risk of unvaccinated health care staff to patient safety and provides stability and uniformity across the nation’s health care system to strengthen the health of people and the providers who care for them.”
The prevalence of COVID-19, in particular the Delta variant, within health care settings increases the risk of unvaccinated staff contracting the virus and transmitting the virus to patients. When health care staff cannot work because of illness or exposure to COVID-19, the strain on the health care system becomes more severe and further limits patient access to safe and essential care. These requirements will apply to approximately 76,000 providers and cover over 17 million health care workers across the country. The regulation will create a consistent standard within Medicare and Medicaid while giving patients assurance of the vaccination status of those delivering care.
Facilities covered by this regulation must establish a policy ensuring all eligible staff have received the first dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine prior to providing any care, treatment, or other services by December 6, 2021. All eligible staff must have received the necessary shots to be fully vaccinated – either two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of Johnson & Johnson – by January 4, 2022. The regulation also provides for exemptions based on recognized medical conditions or religious beliefs, observances, or practices. Facilities must develop a similar process or plan for permitting exemptions in alignment with federal law.
CMS accelerated outreach and assistance efforts encouraging individuals working in health care to get vaccinated following the Administration’s announcement that it would expand the requirement for staff vaccination beyond nursing homes to include additional providers and suppliers. Since the Administration’s announcement, nursing home staff vaccination rates have increased by approximately nine percentage points – from 62 to 71 percent. This increase is encouraging, and this regulation will help to ensure even greater improvement in the vaccination rate among health care workers.
A recent White House report describes the evidence that vaccine requirements work. An analysis of health care systems, educational institutions, public-sector agencies, and private businesses shows that organizations with vaccination requirements have seen their vaccination rates increase by more than 20 percentage points and have routinely seen their share of fully vaccinated workers rise above 90%.
States and individual health systems have historically addressed vaccination requirements for diseases such as influenza and hepatitis B. Today, more than 2,500 hospitals, or 40 percent of all U.S. hospitals, have announced COVID vaccination requirements for their workforce. They sp