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CMS makes vaccinations among Medicare, Medicaid healthcare staff mandatory

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | November 15, 2021
CMS is requiring Medicare and Medicaid healthcare staff to be fully vaccinated by January 4
Staff at any healthcare facility participating in Medicare and Medicaid programs are required to be fully vaccinated by January 4.

The mandate was issued by CMS as part of an emergency regulation, and affects more than 17 million workers in hospitals and other healthcare settings across the U.S. It expands on a previous decision back in August that required staff within more than 15,000 Medicare and Medicaid-participating nursing homes to be vaccinated.

“[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," said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure in a statement on November 4, when the mandate was issued.

Under the most recent requirements, healthcare facilities must implement a policy that ensures staff receive at least one vaccination dose before they can provide any treatment or perform other services in their job by December 5. All must be fully vaccinated by January 4. Acceptable forms of vaccination include either two doses of Pfizer or Moderna, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson, according to Becker’s Hospital Review.

Healthcare facilities must also have a similar process for exemptions, which are granted on the basis of recognized medical conditions and religious beliefs.

“These rules really were developed with a full system perspective, meaning that we understand patients receive care throughout their care journey in several settings, that healthcare workers really often work or change jobs throughout the healthcare system,” Jonathan Blum, principal deputy administrator and COO at CMS, told Becker’s Hospital Review.

The requirements are seen by CMS as base requirements, due to the fact that many healthcare facilities have already mandated that their employees be vaccinated. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was the first federal agency and one of the largest healthcare systems in the country to mandate the vaccine for its frontline workers back in August. Ascension followed it, as did Mayo Clinic, which set a deadline for its employees to get COVID-19 shots by September 17. Like Mayo, some healthcare organizations have already seen their deadlines pass.

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