CMS issues rule requiring healthcare staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19

Nov. 5, 2021

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an emergency regulation requiring COVID-19 vaccination of staff members at healthcare facilities. 

The rule applies to facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

“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 healthcare 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 healthcare settings increases the risk of unvaccinated staff contracting the virus and transmitting the virus to patients, CMS said. In addition, patients’ safety and access to care also suffers when healthcare staff cannot work because they are ill or because of exposure to COVID-19, the agency said.

These requirements will apply to approximately 76,000 providers and cover over 17 million healthcare workers across the country, CMS said.

Facilities 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 5, 2021. By January 4, 2022, staff members must be fully vaccinated. 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 said it will ensure compliance with these requirements through established survey and enforcement processes. If a provider or supplier does not meet the requirements, it will be cited by a surveyor as being non-compliant and have an opportunity to return to compliance before additional actions occur.

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